Notes to the Text

Sarga 1


“of Daṇḍaka”: The king of that name whose country [Ck, Ct, “Maharashtra”] had become a wilderness in consequence of Indra’s curse” (Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct; see note on 2.16.51).

“a circle of ashrams” āśramamaṇḍalam: Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct, Cr understand “circle” in the sense of “mass” (“so called because many dwellings [? read vasti] are placed together in one area in close proximity,” Ck). This is to be distinguished from āśramapada, which signifies the site of a particular ashram.


“bark garments” -cīra, The clothes would have been set out to dry in the sun after the ascetics’ ritual bath (Cg). On the “bark garments” themselves that are traditionally worn by ascetics, see Emeneau 1962 (suggesting cloth woven of bast fiber).

“brahmanical splendor” brāhmyā lakṣmyā: Either the splendor that derives from asceticism (Cm), or from the study of the vedas and the performance of its precepts (Cg), or from “the study of the wisdom of brahma” (Ck, Cs).


kuśa grass” kuśaiḥ: An essential component in a variety of vedic sacrifices.


“offerings and oblations” balihoma-: I agree with Cg, Cr in taking this as a dvandva; Cm, Ck, Ct understand it as a tatpuruṣa, “the oblating of offerings.”


“who knew the meaning of brahmabrahmavidbhiḥ: Perhaps here brahma in the sense of “holy power.”

Note the dignity lent to the verse by the repetition of brahma-. For an informative discussion of the semantic field of the word, the complexity of which is reflected in the different glosses of our commentators here and on verse 2 above, see Biardeau 1972, pp. 24-35.


“he unstrung his great bow” vijyaṃ kṛtvā mahad dhanuḥ: Once again Rāma does not entirely lay aside his weapon, as is customary on entering an ashram. See the note on 2.48.8, and below, 6.18ff. and note. Curiously, most of the NR here reads “stringing his bow” (though Ck should not be included among them, as the crit. ed. has it; he reads vijyam).


“divine knowledge” divyajñāna-: “They knew the secret of Rāma’s avatāra, namely, that he was Viṣṇu descended in order to kill Rāvaṇa; that Sītā was Lakṣmī, and Lakṣmaṇa a portion [of Viṣṇu],” Cg; “‘They had knowledge of the past, present, and future: that Rāma was an avatāra of … the primeval guru brahma, who had descended in order to purify his own śakti; that it was he now coming, and that he would slay Rāvaṇa,” Ck.


“like the rising moon” somam ivodyantam: “Because like the moon he removes darkness, or like the new moon is particularly worshipful; or again, because appearing in the wilderness he is like the moon surrounded by clouds,” Cg; “They looked upon him as King Moon — note the scriptural statement, ‘The moon is king of as brahmans’ [TaiS 1.8.10 (d), TaiBr]; this would go to explain the request for protection they will soon make [verses 17-20, below],” Ck (so Ct, Cs, who adds, “Thus they were as happy as if they had seen their own king”).


“handsome physique” rūpasaṃhananam: The compound is odd, being apparently redundant, and it gives the commentators trouble (is it here to be taken as a dvandva?). I agree with Ct, though the reading of Cm (rūpaṃ sam-) is attractive. The epic formula is in fact siṃhasaṃhanana-, “with the physique of a lion” (“handsome and well built” according to AmaK 3.1.12; see 6.21.30 with Cg there, MBh 1.68.4 and repeatedly in that epic), whereas rūpasaṃhanana- occurs nowhere else in epic Sanskrit.

“his lovely attire” suveṣatām: It is curious that the sages should admire Rāma’s clothing (so Cr, who alone glosses the word reasonably), since he is supposed to be dressed just as they are (see 2.10.28, 16.28, 33.7). There is a related problem in 44.36 below; see the note there. Were suveṣ- instead to connote “simple clothing,” the sages’ astonishment would then be occasioned by the incongruity between Rāma’s princely bearing and weapons and his hermit’s clothes (as in 2.10cd-11ab, 16.11, 18.11 below).


“forest hermits” vanacāriṇaḥ: Cm wants to interpret this literally, “wanderers of the forest”: “The birds, beasts, and so on are meant. And this is the significance of the passage: Blessed Rāma, Sītā, and Lakṣmaṇa are beyond the ken even of Brahmā and the other gods. But like the current of the Ganges, which flows over the halt and the lame alike, he had manifested himself before these forest creatures; and they, fearful of losing this blissful vision … will not even blink their eyes.”


“their leaf huts” parṇaśālāyām: Literally, “their leaf hut.” The singular implies that each seer invites Rāma into his own hut (Cg, Ck, Ct).


“they offered … flowers” puṣpaṃ … nivedayitvā: Apparently for Rāma to eat; see verse 21 below and 2.101.26 note.

“with hands cupped in reverence” prāñjalayaḥ: These brahmans, as Ck, Ct, and Cs observe, may bow before this kshatriya because they know his true nature; otherwise such deference would be improper (compare the note on 2.40.25).


This verse offers a general description of a king, without specific reference to Rāma. There is no need to read, or understand, “you are” with Cm, Ck (Ct), who accordingly refer the sages’ knowledge of Rāma as god and king (which they say is implied by “worthy of reverence and esteem,” respectively) back to verse 10.

“his people” janasyāsya: Less likely, “this people,” that is, the ascetics (Cg).


“(A king is) a fourth part Indra himself” indrasyaiva caturbhāgaḥ: See the Introduction, Chapter 4d, for a discussion of the divinity of kings in traditional India. Cg takes the genitive indrasya as implying (upalakṣaṇa) the other world protectors, citing the statement, “A king is fashioned out of eight measures of the world protectors” (compare ManuSm 7.4, LiṅgaP pūrvārdha 35.5, and SūktiRa 39.18); thus also Cm. See further below, 38.12 and note.


“your realm” bhavadviṣaya-. “Even though the Daṇḍaka forest is not part of Rāma’s realm, it can generally be considered such, since he is a universal emperor,” Ck (but see the note on 2.43.11); “the deeper meaning, however, is that because he is an avatāra of Viṣṇu, all regions are his,” Ct (so too Ck).


In the first half of the verse there is a causal sequence: violence or punishment depends on anger, which in turn is rooted in (unfulfilled) sensual desire (so Cg).

“we are as your children” garbhabhūtāḥ: So Cg. The subjects of a king are considered his prajāḥ, “offspring” or “children” (see Pollock 1986, pp. 21-24). The use of the word garbha-, “embryo,” however, is unusual enough to lead Cm, Ck, Ct to remark that the king should protect his subjects “as a mother protects the unborn child in her womb.”


“lord Rāma” rāmam … īśvaram: The first time in the epic the word is applied thus, as a bald epithet, to Rāma.

Sarga 2


According to Cg, this sarga is meant to demonstrate the abilities Rāma possesses that qualify him as a place of secure refuge, in anticipation of the sages’ request that he destroy Khara (sarga 5).


The commentators take the qualifications (at least 2cd-3ab) as intimating the presence of the demon Virādha, though they give no convincing explanation of why the crickets are chirping. Evidently this is supposed to be an ominous portent, as in 1.23.12 (the dark forest of Tāṭakā).


“strode off” apakramya: The demon’s threats make his “retreating” here seem out of place, but it is difficult to assign the verb any other meaning. Much of the NR reads instead parikramya, “strode about.”


“short-lived creatures” kṣīṇajīvitau: A word that, like gatāyuḥ (46.14, 53.21; 5.22.21) and parimitāyuḥ (47.13), appears to carry an ironic overtone. Like Khara and Rāvaṇa later on, Virādha makes the fatal if understandable mistake of judging Rāma to be a “mere” mortal. See the Introduction, Chapter 4.

“share a wife between you” sabhāryau: According to Cg, some commentators suggest that the word for wife here may be used merely in the sense of “woman” (that is, “who have come in the company of a woman,” so Cm, Ck), or that the dual may be more syntactically than semantically conditioned (although only is married, the adjective is made to agree with the dual subject). Cg himself argues that Virādha means to insult the two men with the reproach that they hold one wife in common, and this seems to me to be correct (Cs adds that Virādha is suggesting that she should thus be his wife, too). On the fundamental tensions in Rāma’s way of life in the forest, see also the note on 16.11.


“impersonating sages” munidūṣakau: Or is it “desecrators [of the ways] of sages”? Compare dharmadūṣakaḥ in 37.7 below.


“farsighted” dīrghadarśinī: See the note on 2.69.2 for the semantic range of this word.

“middle” madhyamā: This despite the fact that Kaikeyī is usually considered the youngest of Daśaratha’s three wives (though not by Ct here). Cg, “Kaikeyī is the youngest of the three chief queens, but the middlemost in age of the 350 other wives of the king” (Cm is similar; see the note on 2.19.22). The NE recension reads “youngest mother.”


“the equal of Vāsava” vāsavopamaḥ: “Unlike the seers [sarga 1], Lakṣmaṇa does not possess knowledge of the true essence of brahma [that is, Rāma], who is the helper of all creatures, and to whom Vāsava could never be compared. Rāma himself has hidden this knowledge from his brother,” Ck (other commentators also attempt to reestablish what they believe to be the proper subordination of Indra, glossing the compound, “to whom Vāsava might be compared” [Cg, Cr]).


“The rage I felt toward Bharata” krodho bharate yo babhūva: Lakṣmaṇa could not appease his anger at Bharata because the latter had come to Rāma seeking refuge (Cg), or because he did not show any desire for the kingship (Ck). Cg enlarges: “An objection might be raised: Bharata and Kaikeyī had Rāma exiled without thinking, and they did beg his forgiveness and ask him to return. Why then do Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa keep calling to mind their usurpation of the kingship? … Because in times of trouble [even good] people forget what may and may not be spoken, and it is to intimate this notion that these statements are made here.” As Venkatanathacharya suggests (1965, p. 14 note), the past tense of the verb may be significant: Lakṣmaṇa’s anger was in fact placated after Bharata’s arrival in Citrakūṭa (Ayodhyākāṇḍa 93ff.), though presumably a residue remained.

Sarga 3


“Virādha”: That is, “Insatiable,” Cg remarking on the propriety of the name (anvarthanāma).


“no weapon of this world could ever kill me” śastreṇāvadhyatā loke: No doubt we are to keep this provision in mind when we come to verse 15 below.


In most of the NR here (and elsewhere in the sarga) it is, interestingly, Lakṣmaṇa who confronts the demon, as in sargas 65-66.


“taut-strung” jyāguṇavatā: The commentators are not helpful on this apparently tautologous item (“a cord in the form of a bowstring,” Cg, Ck, Ct, Cr; “a twanging string,” Cm, which is a guess). The compound is unattested elsewhere.


“dripping with blood” śoṇitādigdhāḥ: Perhaps overly clever Cg, “only ‘partly [-ā-]’ so, because the arrows emerged from his body before the blood could spurt,” and Ck, “‘not at all’ [-a-], because they flew so fast.” I agree with Crā, Cm, Ct, Cr.


“like Death with jaws agape” vyāttānana ivāntakaḥ: According to Cg, with tongue protruding, which establishes a more elaborate comparison with Virādha and his pike, though see the use of the figure elsewhere, such as 30.6 below.

In his comment on an interpolated verse before verse 13 (41*), Ck notes that Rāma’s arrows had little effect on the demon because of his boon (so Ct). This is explicitly stated in a following interpolation (43*): “He preserved his life by reason of his possession of the boon granted him” (line 5).


The NR reads instead that Rāma “implants” an arrow in Virādha’s heart (45*).

Cg observes, “In the subjugation of both Virādha and Kabandha [below, 66.6], Lakṣmaṇa [breaks or] cuts off the left arm, Rāma the right. What necessitates this restriction? Because Lakṣmaṇa always takes up his position at Rāma’s right side, and so [each] demon, in seizing Rāma with its right arm, seizes Lakṣmaṇa with its left.”

Ck (so Ct) are demonstrably wrong to suggest that “the demon has still not lost his life, so the boon has not been contradicted.” Virādha is clearly dying (see verse 23); compare also above, note 13.


The SR (46*) prolongs the attack on Virādha, after which “he still did not die” (46*.4), whereupon Rāma decides to bury him, stepping on his neck to hold him down while Lakṣmaṇa digs. Virādha then speaks, saying he had not known his assailant was Rāma (an interpolation no doubt motivated by the same anxiety as that felt by Ck; see verse 15 note).


“worthy son of Kausalyā” kausalyāsuprajāḥ: For the crit. ed.’s kausalyā suprajāḥ I read the phrase as a tatpuruṣa compound, in agreement with Cg, Ck, Ct, Cr (see the note on 2.14.11).


“Tumburu”: According to Cg on 2.85.15, a singing instructor of the apsarases.

“Vaiśravaṇa”: Another name for Kubera, king of gandharvas and yakṣas.

Are we being given two different stories explaining the identity of the monster, one in verses 5-6 (he is a rākṣasa who through asceticism won the grace of Brahmā), and another in verses 18ff. (he is a gandharva who was cursed)? Text-critically considered, both stories appear authentic, however incompatible. The gemination (if it is that) is oddly similar to what appears to be present in the Kabandha episode (see sarga 67 and note on verse 1).


“Rambhā”: According to the commentator Rāmacandra on RāmāCam p. 162, she was the daughter-in-law of Vaiśravaṇa.


“Such is the immemorial custom with respect to dead rākṣasas” rakṣasāṃ gatasattvānām eṣa dharmaḥ sanātanaḥ: “The Yavanas [literally, “Ionians” (that is, Greeks), though the reference here is doubtless to Muslims], who are the rākṣasas of the Kali age, thus still follow this custom,” Ck, Ct. According to Kālidāsa, RaghuVa 12.30, they bury Virādha lest the stench (of his burning corpse) pollute the groves of austerities.


“ready to enter heaven” svargasaṃprāptaḥ: The compound must have an inchoative aspect, as Cm, Cg, Ct perceive, for the demon could not actually reach heaven before the burial had taken place (for the verbal aspect, see the note on 2.3.5).


“at the top of his voice” muktakaṇṭham: The commentators all understand “having his throat freed,” that is, from Rāma’s foot (see the interpolation noted on verse 16 above), though the adverbial use of the compound is not infrequent.


“like the sun and moon in heaven” divi sthitau candradivākarāv iva: Cg attempts to explain the simile: The forest is comparable to heaven because it is both vast and dark; Rāma to the moon because he has his wife with him (corresponding to the constellation Rohiṇī; see the note on 2.106.3); and Lakṣmaṇa to the sun in being without his wife, and lacking full autonomy (though why the sun lacks autonomy is unclear). Cm and Ct offer similar fanciful explanations. For the figure compare 2.93.40.

Sarga 4


Many of these characteristics are standard traits of divine beings.


Most of the SR adds that the young men are cloaked in red (66*). On the troop of Indra’s companions, normally considered to be the Maruts or stormgods — young, handsome men ornamented with gold, who are the same age, accompany Indra at the battle against the demon Vṛtra, and sing the victorious god’s praises — see the convenient summary in Gonda 1960-64, vol. 1, pp. 61-62.


“tigers among men” puruṣavyāghrāḥ: Much of the NW and SR reads the vocative singular (referring to Lakṣmaṇa), and indeed it seems rather odd to apply this particular epithet to gods, an instance apparently without parallel in the Rām (but note the v.l.’s in the SR and NR on verse 12 above).


“conduct me to my residence” niṣṭhāṃ nayata: Crā, Cm, Cg (all S manuscripts read the third person here) have nayatu “Let him achieve (his end before he addresses me).” Cg cites AmaK (3.3.41) as authority for niṣṭhā- in the sense of “end,” “goal,” and indeed it is the common one (though the phrase niṣṭhāṃ nī seems to be attested only here in Sanskrit literature). But as Ck (who with Ct and Cr reads as per the crit. ed.) comments, “What Indra wants to do is avoid seeing Rāma at this time, and that is all he should say … .” Why should Indra wish to avoid any meeting with Rāma? Cg: “Were Indra to speak with him he would thereby reveal Rāma’s divine nature … and [on verse 19] Rāma must do his great deed — the slaying of Rāvaṇa and so on — in the guise of a man” (so basically Ck; Cr, “The verse [19] suggests that Indra is afraid Rāvaṇa might be angry were he to speak with Rāma”; Ct, “It is inappropriate for one in such narrow straits [as Rāma] to behold such magnificence [as Indra’s]”).

This episode is further explicated in 29.30ff. below, but one must wonder whether that later “interpretation” is the one intended by the monumental poet here. For Indra does not meet with Rāma after the death of Khara, but only after the death of Rāvaṇa (Yuddhakāṇḍa 105ff.).

Cg’s comment touches on an essential theme of the poem; see the Introduction, Chapter 4.


“with his companions” saparicchadaḥ: So Cg, Ck, Ct, Cr (see verse 22); Cs, perhaps to avoid any inconsistency with verse 15, glosses, “with his accoutrements, bows, arrows, etc.”


“wishes to conduct me” māṃ … ninīṣati: “That is, under orders from Brahmā,” Cg, Ck (Ct, “Or, it may have been Brahmā himself in the guise of Indra”).


“the world of Brahmā” brahmalokam: The highest of the several heavens of classical cosmology, the others including the world of the fathers, that of the seers, and that of the gods (cf. also note 35 below). (Cg here cites BhagGī 8.16, which says that though the highest of heavens, even the world of Brahmā is perishable.)

“honored guest” priyātithim: “This signifies that in comparison even with the world of Brahmā the sight of Rāma is more efficacious in providing imperishable happiness,” Cs; Cm glosses the compound as a bahuvrīhi, “‘to whom guests,’ that is, devotees, ‘are dear.’”


“please accept the worlds that are now mine” pratigṛhṇīṣva māmakān: Venkatanathacharya suggests that because Rāma has been banished from his own kingdom, the sage offers him an even grander residence, and he refers to Sutīkṣṇa’s words and Rāma’s reply in 6.10-13 below (1965, p. 36 notes). Cg, however, argues that the surface meaning here may relate to the hospitality shown to a guest (expressed by transferring one’s puṇya, or merit, to him), but more deeply the verse concerns what is called the “delivering up” of all deeds to the Blessed One, that is, unattached action (so also Cm; Ct cites a verse of similar import from the KūrmaP [see 1.3.16 in the crit. ed.], and remarks, “It is clear from the Gītā and other works that acts of righteousness delivered up to the Blessed One give infinite rewards, insofar as they issue in liberation”).


“1 hope to win … for myself” aham evāhariṣyāmi: Rāma refuses because a kshatriya may not accept gifts (Cm; see for instance the note on 2.81.15). Moreover, as the MBh informs us, the kshatriya is able, by the proper execution of his own code of conduct, to win himself “infinite worlds” (see 12.64.19, 72.30).


“Make your way” abhigaccha: Some S manuscripts add that the direction is upstream, along the Mandākinī (76*).


“as I abandon my body” yāvaj jahāmi gātrāṇi: Cm justifies Śarabhaṅga’s self-immolation (suicide being generally prohibited) by the following citation: “An old man who can no longer perform the rites of purification, and for whom medical treatment is no longer indicated, may destroy himself by [throwing himself from] a cliff, by fire, fasting, or drowning” (AtriSm 218; see also Kane 1962-1975, vol. 2, part 2, p. 926). Cg and Ck are no doubt closer to the truth when (on verse 32) they describe this as the brahmamedha, a self-sacrifice for attaining divine existence (they adduce as proof-text an unidentified upaniṣad).


“the world of Brahmā” brahmalokam: The path to the world of Brahmā — through the flame of the cremation fire, and thence, ultimately, to the world of the gods, the sun, lightning, and finally brahmaloka — is described in the most ancient upaniṣads (BṛĀraU 6.3.15, ChāndoU 4.15.5-6), which Cg cites here.

Ck comments, “According to śruti, ‘By works the world of the ancestors …’ [compare BṛĀraU 1.5.16, the worlds of those who maintain the sacred fires are reached via the moon; the worlds of the ‘seers,’ that is, devotees, upāsaka] is reached via the sun; again according to śruti, ‘By knowledge the world of the gods …’ [see ibid.]; the gods are the thirty-three gods existing at the time of creation … and their worlds are reached via the north star … . The world of Brahmā is the fourth state.”


“in his abode” bhavane: So I read for the crit. ed.’s bhuvane (compare, for example, 1.8 above).

Ck observes, “Since [Śarabhaṅga] waited for Rāma to arrive before performing his brahma sacrifice [that is, his self-immolation], it should be clear even to a child that Rāma is brahma” (so too Cg).

Sarga 5


“hosts of sages … came to visit … Rāma” munisaṃghāḥ … abhyagacchanta … rāmam: “The sages come to take refuge with Rāma, now that Śarabhaṅga, who had been powerful enough to protect them, went to heaven,” Cg (though contrast the sages’ own statement in 8.14).


vaikhānasas”: According to the traditional interpretation, “those sages born from the nails [nakha-] of Brahmā” (so Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct, Cs, Cr; Cm, Cs, alternatively, “those who follow the path of the sage Vikhanasa on the basis of the sūtras he promulgated”).

vālakhilyas”: Again, traditionally “those sages born from the hair [vāla-] of Brahmā” (Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct, Cr; Cm also, “those who relinquish the previous stores of food when new food is acquired”). Vālakhilyas are mythological creatures, said to be the size of a thumb (see MBh 1.27.6ff.).

saṃprakṣālas”: “Those born from the water used to wash the feet of the Blessed One [so Ck, Ct, Cr]; or, those who live by consuming (on the same day) the means of subsistence that they collect every day, that is, aśvastanikāḥ [thus Cv reads and comments],” Cm; “those who are constantly washing their bodies,” Cg; “those who live only on water in which food has been washed,” Cs.

marīcipas”: “drinkers of moonbeams,” according to the traditional interpretation, and Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct.

“that pound their food with stones” aśmakuṭṭāḥ: So Cm, Ck, though the commentators are more uncertain here: “those who eat raw food that has been pounded,” Ct (similarly Cr); “who eat pulverized stones,” Cs; “who strike themselves with stones,” Cg (compare ManuSm 6.17 and YājñaSm 3.49).


“who use their teeth as mortars” dantolūkhalinaḥ: “That is, who husk rice and the like with their teeth only, and then eat it,” Cm, Cg; so Ck, Ct.

“keep themselves submerged” unmajjakāḥ: “That is, in water up to their heads, as an act of self-mortification,” Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct, Cr.


“who make their abode in the open” ākāśanilayāḥ: So Ck, Ct, Cr understand the compound; Cg glosses, “‘in the sky,’ that is, in treetops”; Cm, “‘in the sky,’ by the power of their meditations on the wind.”

“ever engaged in ascetic practices” taponityāḥ: The commentators explain “asceticism” here as “the daily repetition of the veda,” on the basis of an ancient equivalence (cf. for example ŚatBr 11.5.7).

“the five ascetic fires” pañcatapaḥ: In the “mortification of the five fires,” the ascetic stands in the midst of four fires that he has built around him in a circle, while the summer sun shines above him as the fifth.

The NR considerably extends the list of ascetics (84*, 85*). We find comparable catalogs in BaudhDS 3.3.1-15; MBh 9.36.45, 12.17.10, 12.236.8ff., and BuddhaC 7.14ff.


“lord and master” pradhānaś ca … nāthaḥ: That is, of his House and of the earth, respectively (with Cg, Ck; see 2.23.31). This is the primary construction of the verse, and the nominative mahārathaḥ accepted by the crit. ed. is disruptive and most improbable. I read the vocative with T1, 2, and M.


“greatness” yaśasā: For this sense of the word see 61.5 below (though the tautology “[famous … for] glory” is not unknown to the epics; compare MBh 3.50.10). “Your filial devotion is profound, no less your truthfulness” pitṛvratatvaṃ satyaṃ ca … puṣkalaḥ: I agree with Cg in construing the adjective with pāda c also (against Cm, Cr). Alternatively: “Your devotion to your father is true [sincere], and your righteousness profound.”


“Please forgive us” naḥ kṣantum arhasi: Cm comments, “Although, according to the maxim ‘It is enough for those in need simply to present themselves before good men,’ their purposes would be served merely by taking refuge with him; still, because of their extreme distress they must speak, and for this they beg his pardon” (so Cg, Ct; Cr, “This implies that people in need lose all sense of what they may and may not say”).


“long-lasting … for many years to come” śāśvatīm … bahuvārṣikīm: Many manuscripts seek to remove what looks like a restriction or afterthought in the second phrase (though compare such phrases as dīrghakālam anantakam, “for a long time, endlessly,” MBh 2.68.5).


On the doctrine that by protecting his subjects — which is his particular form of dharma — a king not only shares in the fruits of their agricultural produce but also acquires great merit, see the note on 2.4.44, ManuSm 9.306; Kane 1962-1975, vol. 3, pp. 56ff.; Spellman 1964, pp. 179-83. I understand the reference here to the sage to mean, not that the king takes a quarter of the holy man’s merit (although it is elsewhere frequently said that a good king acquires one-quarter of his subjects’ righteous merit, and a bad king one-quarter of their demerit; see for example MBh 12.66.26, 73.20, 76.6-8), but that the merit he acquires is comparable to that amount; see for example MBh 12.66.35, “By his protecting his subjects a king acquires a hundred times more righteous merit than he who follows the way of righteousness in the forest … .” Rather differently the commentators. According to Cg, Ck (so Cr), the verse is meant to answer the question, why should a king protect sages, who are unable to pay any tax (“subjects” then would refer to sages). But if the king is paid by them in righteous merit, why does he take one-quarter instead of the normal one-sixth? Cm responds to this: “The king takes a sixth of the merit acquired by people who fast or live on alms; a quarter from those who eat the produce from the area protected by the king, and a half from those who grow fat on the king’s own food and drink, this last in accord with the traditional statement, ‘One gets half the merit performed by a man who grows fat on one’s food and drink, while the performer himself gets the other half” [untraced] (so Ct).


“brahmans most of them” brāhmaṇabhūyiṣṭhaḥ: The rest would be kshatriyas and vaishyas (Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct, Ctś); or, “knowers of brahma for the most part” (Cg, Ctś).


“Pampā river” pampānadī-: The reading is marked as uncertain (other manuscripts give “the woodlands by [or, “the banks of”] the Pampā”). The Pampā is called a river elsewhere (see 4.3.6, though there are variants), but more often a lotus pond (3.69.5; 6.111.17).


“the distraught ascetics” tāpasānāṃ tapasvinām: On tapasvin in the sense of “distraught, wretched” see 46.16 below, and notes on 2.23.3, 58.25, 102.2. Though the word is used in its other sense, “ascetic,” in the very next verse, the tautology here would be most awkward. The least implausible of the commentators’ suggestions here (and on the similar problem in verse 9.12, see Cs and Cr there) is Cg’s “superior ascetics” (praśaṃsāyāṃ ini, see KāśiVṛ 5.2.94).

Hereafter the SR adds,

For this purpose pure and simple would I have had to enter the forest — to eliminate this outrage against you at the hand of the rākṣasas. Instead, doing my father’s bidding have I entered the forest. (93*)

This passage renders a bit more intelligible the use of yadṛcchayā in verse 20: “[Thus] … chance has brought me here.”


“had bestowed this boon” dattvā varam: Why should Rāma’s pledge be called a “boon”? It is rather his duty to protect the sages, as they pointed out to him (above, verses 10ff.). The reading (a)bhayam, “(had bestowed, granted) security …” is supported by the entire NR as well as by several important S manuscripts (and note the later references, ṛṣīṇām abhayaṃ dattam in 31.12 and abhayaṃ dattvā in 32.10). I hesitate to emend the crit. ed. only because of the very peculiarity of the reading.

Sarga 6


“densely” saṃtatam: This reading (for the meaningless satatam of the crit. ed.) is corroborated by 5.2.13, 11.24.


“garlanded with barkcloth garments” cīramālāpariṣkṛtam: See the note on 1.2 above.

“gloomy” ghoram: The adjective is almost never used in reference to ashrams; on the contrary, it almost always connotes foreboding. Much of the NR and some S manuscripts variously remove it.


“hair matted with dirt and mud” malapaṅkajaṭādharam: Ck asserts that the “most widely accepted reading” here is malapaṅkajadhāriṇam (either “meditating in the lotus position [for the cleansing] of sin,” or, “meditating on the lotus [of the heart for the cleansing … ]”).


“strive for truth” satyavikrama: See the note on 2.19.7, and Pollock 1983, pp. 276-79 (to which this example should have been added, as well as MBh 6.103.21 and 14.66.16). Many manuscripts show an uneasiness at having this epithet apply to a sage; clearly the original meaning of the compound was no longer grasped.


“and that is why I have not yet ascended” nārohe ‘ham: As Venkatanathacharya points out (1965, p. 49 note), this is a more or less general statement, for unlike Śarabhaṅga, Sutīkṣṇa will not destroy himself after Rāma’s departure; see below, 10.26, 33, etc.

“about the time you reached Citrakūṭa” citrakūṭam upādāya: The construction adopted here agrees with Cg. The NR transposes verses 9 and l0ab, which further suggests that the three half-lines are to be construed as I have done.


“self-controlled” ātmavān: Or, “self-respecting.” The epithet is not often used in contexts allowing a precise determination of meaning. See the note on 2.27.27, and below, 43.37 note.


“in all matters” sarvatra: “In the means for attaining all the ends of man,” Ck; “‘everywhere,’ that is, in this world and in the next,” Ct; “in the vedas and the śāstras,” Cr.


Sutīkṣṇa’s mentioning the tame animals that visit the ashram is unremarkable, a commonplace in such descriptions. Rāma’s response, however, in verses 19-20 is peculiar. Presumably it is related to, and meant to emphasize, his love of hunting (see the note on 2.43.13-14), and the violent behavior that going armed can induce, something Sītā will caution him against later (sarga 8, especially verse 11). Mention of Rāma’s predilection for hunting at this point in the narrative may be designed to prepare us for his rash decision in the Mārīca episode (41.21, 23-33). The commentators naturally are puzzled, and the SR reflects this puzzlement in interpolating after verse 17 the silly line “There is no other shortcoming in this ashram than the animals” (104*). Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct observe, “‘enticing,’ that is, they disturb one’s meditations with their dazzling coats,” to which Ct adds, “as for example Mārīca will do later in the book”; —lobhayati is in fact the word used of Mārīca in 38.15, 40.18. Venkatanathacharya (1965, p. 52 note) seems to suggest that Rāma fabricates this reason in order to accommodate the sages with whom he has come (above, 5.21, 6.1), and who will urge him quickly to depart (7.5 below).


“You would be implicated in it” bhavāṃs tatrābhiṣajyeta: Or, with Cr, “You would be pained on their account,” which is equivalent to the Ś1 gloss (a)bhisaṃtapyet. Cs, citing Viśva(locanakośa), might be closer to the truth in glossing “You might curse me,” or, “rebuke me.”


“granter of boons” varadam: Cg tries to give the ornamental epithet some contextual significance: “We gather from this that Sutīkṣṇa has assented.”

“went to perform” upāgamat: See the note on 2.6.1 for this rare sense of the verb (Cg, “‘betook himself’ to the twilight, that is, he went to the lakeside on account of [“in order to worship,” Cm, Ck, Ct] the twilight”).


“offered it to the two … men” tābhyāṃ … dadau: “As for Sītā, she eats only the remnants of Rāma’s dinner,” Cg.

Sarga 7


“fire” agnim: The tradition is much exercised over the question of what āśrama or life stage Rāma is in before and during his exile; this would be indicated in part by the number of ritual fires he maintains when in the forest. Since the singular is used in the present verse, Cg remarks, we must suppose that, at the time of his exile, Rāma had not yet instituted the three sacred fires of the householder; see further the note on 2.93.11. The NE recensions here reads ‘gnitrayasya, “the three fires.”

“(in the forest,) the refuge of ascetics” tapasviśaraṇe (vane): This qualification in reference to the forest I find awkward, and it seems not to be attested elsewhere in epic literature. Weakly Cg, “It is used to indicate that the pūjā [worship] was of a sort appropriate to the place” (all other commentators are silent). Could the form be a dual (“[the two of them, who were] places of refuge for ascetics”)? Note the use of the compound in 4.11.12 and 17, where as grammatically appropriate for this sort of compound, the inherent gender of the second member is retained with masculine antecedents. Still, the plurals in verse 4 seem to speak against this analysis.

“and seeing the rising sun” udayantaṃ dinakaraṃ dṛṣṭvā: Ritual texts are in disagreement on when precisely the morning ritual offering is to be made (see Bodewitz 1976, pp. 41-50). Cg remarks, “By the mention of the appearance of the sun after the offering of the oblation, there is suggested the doctrine that oblations are to be offered before sunrise, and therefore that the ritual activities of the Rāghavas conform to the sequence enunciated in the Kātyāyana Sūtras [see KātyŚS 4.12].”


“smoldering fires” viśikhair iva pāvakaiḥ: Literally, “flameless fires.” The phrase is rather odd, and in fact appears to be attested nowhere else in epic literature. Perhaps it approximates the more common “smokeless fires,” as Cm, Ct, Cr gloss it (Cg, “That is, whose greatness is kept hidden”; Ck, “fires contained in coals”). It is less likely meant to suggest that the ascetics’ powers are diminished because of their fear of the rākṣasas.


“like a lowborn man getting rich” lakṣmīṃ prāpyevānvayavarjitaḥ: That is, the high splendor of the nouveau riche, who is without good breeding, is insufferable.


“ashrams” āśramapadam: I take this as a collective singular, as do Cm, Ct.


Cg speculates: “When they entered the ashram, Sītā, thinking there to be no need for weapons in such a place, deposited them somewhere in the sage’s abode. During Rāma’s talk with the sage [verses 8-16], recognizing the brothers’ intention she retrieved the weapons and returned them. This occasions the thoughts she speaks in the following sarga.”

Sarga 8


This verse is far likelier to be a reflection on dharma in general (note the NR’s version, 120*), rather than specifically on the dharma of sages (so Cg).

“greatest care” susūkṣmeṇa vidhinā: “Subtle is the way of dharma” (sūkṣmā gatir hi dharmasya) we are told repeatedly in the MBh (3.200.2 etc.), not “imperceptible” (whereby Roussel 1910-1912, pp. 36-7 is set adrift).


“even worse” tasmād gurutarau: tasmād is to be construed thus as ablative of comparison (pace Ck, Cg, and Venkatanathacharya 1965, p. 58 note). Sītā’s point, of course, is that wanton violence would be a far greater sin in Rāma than his breaking his word. The verse unobtrusively frames three main themes of the poem in general, and of the Araṇyakāṇḍa in particular: Rāma’s truthfulness in keeping his father’s word, Rāvaṇa’s sexual outrage, and the violence that accompanies it.


“that destroys righteousness” dharmanāśanam: “This explains the preponderance of the sins expressed by “even worse” [verse 3 and note]; lying speech produces adharma, this sin both [produces adharma and destroys dharma],” Cg.


“my handsome husband” śubhadarśana: Cg explains, “That is, his beauty itself is proof [namely, of his virtue]; compare the statement in śruti, ‘His beauty told of his greatness’ [TaiS].” On the concomitance traditionally held in Sanskrit literature to exist between beauty and virtue, see Pollock 1986, p. 50 and note 2.


“without provocation” nirvairam: That is, “because the rākṣasas have not committed any offense against Rāma himself,” Ct.


“Daṇḍaka”: There may be an etymological pun here, daṇḍaka- also meaning “(where there are) those who punish (wrongdoing).”

Sītā is not quite correct here. Rāma is going to Daṇḍaka because of his promise, not to the seers, but rather to Kaikeyī (see 2.16.30, 37). In any case, it is odd that she should imply he is only now setting out to Daṇḍaka (see also verse 10), which he is said to enter in 1.1 above.


Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct all agree on what to my mind is an impossible construction here (“As I watch you setting out, and these deeds of yours, thinking about your happiness and welfare, my mind grows [bhavet] sick with worry”). Many N manuscripts read, rather more easily, “(the mind of me) who on every occasion thinks about your ultimate happiness.”


“any forest-dweller” vanacarān sarvān: This reference should be kept nonspecific, in order to capture the irony present: “Might you not mistakenly slay some innocent forest-dweller,” that is, perhaps, “as your father once did” (see Ayodhyākāṇḍa 57-58, although strictly speaking Sītā should be ignorant of the story recalled by Daśaratha on his deathbed, and made known to no one). Cm, Ct, Cr take Sītā to mean, “mistakenly slay any rākṣasa, even one who has done no harm.”


Indra seeks to obstruct the austerities of any ascetic whose power threatens to grow great enough to challenge his own position as king of the gods (see also 10.12ff. below).


“creatures that have done no wrong” aparādhaṃ vinā … lokān: When asking Rāma’s protection, the sages had already described the “outrages” committed by the rākṣasas. In view of this, Sītā’s claim that the rākṣasas are innocent seems curious. It may be simply that the whole point of the passage is not so much to throw Rāma’s resolve into doubt (or rather, to highlight it, as we shall see in the next sarga), but instead merely to emphasize Sītā’s kindliness, and thus to intensify our sense of outrage at (or the irony of) the rākṣasas’ mistreatment of one who spoke so earnestly in their favor.


“in the forests inhabited by men who practice self-restraint” vaneṣu niyatātmanām: I agree with Venkatanathacharya (1965, p. 65 note) in thus construing the two items; Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct, impossibly in my view, coordinate as an adjectival phrase with pāda d. Much of the NR plausibly offers, “(kshatriyas) who are intent on their own code of conduct.”


Compare the very similar admonition of Bharata to Rāma (2.98.56), which is intended to urge just the opposite course of action. Note that vyāviddham idam here (“it is all so at odds”) corresponds to īdṛśaṃ vyāhataṃ karma in the Ayodhyākāṇḍa passage.


“mother-in-law” śvaśrū-: No doubt Kausalyā is meant (“she would rejoice that her son was forever free from the trouble of war,” Cm), and not Kaikeyī (Cg).


“No, true happiness is not easily won” na sukhāl labhyate sukham: Literally, “Not through happiness is happiness won.” On the charged sense of the repeated sukham see 2.98.30 and note. Although such anaphoric emphasis is not uncommon in Sanskrit, a more significant distinction may be intended here. The Jains, for example, distinguished between bliss, sukham, and the ordinary “feeling of happiness” sukhā vedanā (Jaini 1979, p. 104 note 35, and Jaini 1977). At the same time, in contrast to such ascetic programs as that of the Jains, the Buddha claimed “to attain happiness by happiness” (sukhaṃ sukhena adhigantabbam; compare Rhys Davids 1950, vol. 5, pp. xii-xiii; Theragāthā 63 and 220; Aṅguttara 2.3; Majjhima 1.93).


“the ways of righteousness appropriate to an ascetics’ grove” dharmaṃ tapovane: As Cr rightly sees, some specification of the kind of dharma is required (see deśadharma-, “the customs of the place,” in verse 23 and kṣatradharma-, “the kshatriya code,” in verse 24). Thus the locative must in some sense be restrictive.

“But then” hi: On the adversative force of this particle, see the note on 2.98.50; tu is, in fact, read by several manuscripts here.

Sarga 9


“with firm adherence to righteousness” dharme sthitaḥ: “‘Righteousness’ here has the sense of his duty to protect the sages,” Cm; Cg adds, “This signifies that to Rāma the most important thing is fulfilling his promise [to the sages], even if it means suffering the torments of Sītā’s absence [the ultimate result of his killing the demons].” Ck reads instead saṃvardhitaḥ, “increased,” “that is, his knowledge of righteousness thus amplified” (Venkatanathacharya, “with renewed determination,” 1965, p. 68 note), calling it the accepted reading, though as is often the case with Ck, no other manuscript offers it.


“testifies to your high birth” kulaṃ vyapadiśantyā: In agreement with Cg (cf. verse 20 below); Cm, Ck, Cr, “‘enunciating the proper code of conduct of our family,’ namely, in 8.22.”


“‘Kshatriyas only bear bows’” kṣatriyair dhāryate cāpaḥ: Rāma here reformulates Sītā’s words in 8.22. Many manuscripts give, “What shall I say [or, “What need I say,” or, “I do have something to say”]? You yourself spoke these words.”


“the refuge of others” śaraṇyāḥ: See verse 9 below; less probably, “who are so in need of refuge.”


“Rescue” abhyavapadya: For this verb in the sense of “save, rescue, succor,” see 6.50.16 (contra Cg) and 6.51.26.


“did obeisance at their feet” kṛtvā caranaśuśrūṣām: Literally, “showed obedience to”; this agrees with Cm, Cg, though the phrase is unusual. Ck attributes it to “dull-witted paurāṇikas” unable to construe “the ancient and widely accepted reading” vacanaśuśrūṣām, “showed [that is, “resolved on,” Cm, Ck, Ct] obedience to their words.”


“at the times of the lunar rites” parvakāleṣu: The sacrifices on the full and new moon days.


“the ascetics in their distress” tāpasānāṃ tapasvinām: See 5.19 and note.


“although” ca: The concessive force of the particle is not usual, but may be related to its more common adversative function (see for instance 35.2 below and Speijer 1886, p. 341).

An ascetic’s curse is powered by, and so depletes, the spiritual energy derived from his penances.


With respect to Rāma’s promise, Ck notes that as universal emperor Rāma is qualified to promise protection irrespective of the country in which he may find himself. In addition, though he may be living as an ascetic, Rāma remains a kshatriya and so still has the authority to protect those who take refuge with him (cf. Venkatanathacharya 1965, p. 71 note; the intricate problem of Rāma’s sociological status — as a king who has adopted the life of an ascetic — is a matter of concern to the commentators throughout the epic, see for instance 2.46.58 note). Ct claims that “insofar as Rāma’s enthronement will necessarily take place later, he may now execute the function of royal protector; anyway, the authority to protect belongs to the kshatriya caste [jāti] as a whole, not just to him on the throne.” According to Ck, it is on these grounds that Rāma is justified in slaying Vālin (in Kiṣkindhākāṇḍa). But that Rāma is considered a virtual king is made clear elsewhere in the text (see below, 28.10 and note).


“I would sooner give up” apy ahaṃ … jahyām: “This Rāma proclaims despite the following express commandments: ‘One must always protect oneself, even at the cost of one’s own wife, or one’s wealth’; ‘A brother is one’s very own image’; ‘A wife is half of oneself’” (TaiS, Cg.


pādas cd, as Cr alone perceives, are parenthetical.

“worthy” sadṛśam: For this sense (rather than “similar to”) cf. 2.3.22 and note. Cg (who reads cātmanaḥ at the end of pāda d) understands “characteristic of you,” citing another instance of Sītā’s mercifulness the famous verse “The noble man must take pity on the good and evil alike, and on those who stand condemned to death: For there is no one who never errs” (6.101.36).

Sarga 10


“fair-waisted Sītā in the middle” sītā madhye sumadhyamā: Such light puns (this one is technically called a pādānta yamaka) are typical of the poet’s style; cf. 18.13, 19.23, 21.1, and, for related varieties, 2.12.20, 13.20, 68.15.

Venkatanathacharya (1965, p. 73 note) points out that in the Ayodhyākāṇḍa when entering the wilderness, it is Lakṣmaṇa who goes first, and Rāma last (2.46.76-77). The reason for the change, he says, is that the seers who had gathered at Śarabhaṅga’s hermitage are now accompanying Rāma and showing the way, whereas previously they were alone and passing through an unfamiliar forest. That even such apparently trivial details in the Rāmāyaṇa were held to be significant is richly exemplified by the detailed comment of Ctś, who reports that traditionally the verse is taken phonemically to contain, and in a complicated way to illustrate the meaning of, the sacred syllable aum (again according to tradition the next verse is held to illustrate the meaning of another word in the mūlamantra sacred to south Indian Vaiṣṇavas, namely, nārāyaṇa). The most detailed exegesis is found in Vedāntadeśika’s RahaTrSā, chapter 3.


“the story (of the lake)” prabhavaṃ (sarasaḥ): So I read (with Cg, Ck, and most other S manuscripts) for the crit. ed.’s prabhāvam, for what Dharmabhṛt goes on to recount is the “origin (of the name),” that is, the story, of the lake, not its “power.”


“brimful all year round” sārvakālikam: In essential agreement with Ck, Ct, Cr (“always brimful with water”; Cg, “It brought forth sounds all the time”).

“Māṇḍakarṇi”: The only mention of Māṇḍakarṇi in Sanskrit literature seems to be the charming tale of him told here. The manuscripts disagree about the name, the NR reading Manda- or Madakarṇi, several G codices Māṃḍukarṇi. On the story cf. RaghuVa 13.38-40.


“knowing right from wrong” dṛṣṭaparāvaraḥ: Comparable to dṛṣṭalokaparāvara-, (2.56.5 with note there), and śrutadharmaparāvara- (2.34.27). All seem to mean pretty much “knowing right from wrong, good from bad.” Rather differently the commentators: “knowing the individual and universal soul,” Cm, Cg; “knowing the higher and lower knowledge, which is learned from the upaniṣads,” Cr; “knowing dharma and adharma, pertaining both to this world and the world to come,” Ct.


“with whom he had previously been staying” yeṣām uṣitavān pūrvaṃ sakāśe: Possibly this refers to the ascetics encountered at Śarabhaṅga’s ashram (5.1ff.) who had been traveling with Rāma (so the ṭīkā in VSP, p. 68 note; Venkatanathacharya 1965, p. 77 note), or equally well to those who left him at the end of Book Two (2.108, especially verse 20).

“for some ten (months)” paridaśān (māsān): I agree with Cr.

“an extra month” adhikaṃ māsam: So I read with a variety of NE, D, and S manuscripts (for the crit. ed.’s adhikān māsān), in view of the evident ascending scale of time in verses 24d-25a.

Cg tries valorously to compute the ten years here from the poet’s figures, but obviously they are meant to be illustrative only.


“At the end of his tour” parisṛtya: Ck reads instead pratiśrutya, “having promised,” referring back to 7.16-17.


“Agastya”: The story cycle of this sage, who is traditionally credited with bringing brahmanism to south India, is found also, and in much greater detail, in the forest book of the MBh, 3.94-108.


“Agastya’s brother” agastyabhrātuḥ: Ct, Cs identify the (younger) brother as Idhmavāha on the basis of BhāgP 4.28.32.


“surrounded by many trees” bahupādapasaṃvṛte: The epithet makes little sense in connection with a forest. N manuscripts variously improve matters (“with different kinds of trees gently bent over,” etc.).


“why not set your mind on going this very day” adyaiva gamane buddhiṃ rocayasva: According to Venkatanathacharya (1965, p. 82 note), Sutīkṣṇa urges Rāma to go in the knowledge that Agastya will provide him with magical weapons with which to slay the demons (see 11.29 below).


darbha grass” darbhāḥ: This grass is used in sacrificial ceremonies, and so would lead to the inference that an ascetic’s hermitage is nearby.


“like a mountain peak shrouded in black cloud” kṛṣṇābhraśikharopamam: For the analysis of the compound see 2.5.21 note. Cm, Ck, Ct, Cr, “like a black cloud and a mountain peak”; Cg, “like the top of a black cloud.”


“secluded” vivikteṣu: Or, “purified, clean” (Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct, Cr).

“make flower offerings” puṣpopahāraṃ kurvanti: The reference appears to be to the offering of pūjā, otherwise rare in the Rām (though see the note on 2.17.6).

“gathered by their own hands” svayam ārjitaiḥ: Cg, Ctr cite smṛti, “A brahman must himself gather fuel sticks, flowers, kuśa grass, water, and the like” (untraced).


“his … brother” yasya bhrātrā: Agastya himself.

“death” mṛtyum: The murders committed by the demons.

“this region” iyaṃ dik: The south.


The story is also told, in a somewhat longer and more folktalelike form, in the MBh 3.94-97.


śrāddha”: A commemorative feast in honor of the ancestral spirits, consisting of offerings of balls of cooked rice, and gifts to and the feeding of brahmans.


“ram” meṣa-: For the serving of meat (though generally goat meat) at śrāddhas, see 2.71.1 and note, and 2.69.22.


“bleating like a ram” meṣavan nadan: “He would begin to bleat like a ram while still within their stomachs, by the power of the revivification spell [possessed by his brother],” Crā, Ck, Ct.


“the eaters of raw flesh” tair … piśitāśanaiḥ: The plural, according to Cm, Cg, is meant to include the attendants of the two demons; there are, however, other instances where the plural seems to take the place of the dual, cf. 67.20 below and note.

“in league with one another” saṃhatya: A good v.1., though offered only by a few D manuscripts and Cr, is saṃhṛtya, “having gathered [the thousands of brahmans] together [in one place].”


“the sprinkling of the hands” hastāvasecanam: The ceremony, especially sensible in a culture where food is eaten with the hands, marks the formal end of the ritual meal.

The NR in part explicitly states that Agastya consumed the demon-ram all by himself (171*.8ff., as in the MBh version of the story, 3.97.4-6), and thereby extirpates the evil totally.


Cg, Ct notice the hypermetric pāda, calling it archaic; Ck remarks, “There was no other way to employ these two words, abhivādaye tvā, without a hypermetric pāda resulting.” Compare 2.95.31 and note, for the only other such instance in Books Two to Six.


“glossy” snigdha-: The leaves are “glossy” because the inhabitants of the ashram take special care of the trees (Cg).

“gentle” kṣāntāḥ: Bhatt (1963, p. 402) came to prefer śāntāḥ, though there is little to choose between the two words.


“Agastya, ‘Stopper of the Mountain’”: I agree with Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct on the poet’s intention of suggesting the etymology agaṃ [syati or] stambhayati, “he who paralyzed the mountain.” See verse 83 and note below.

“thick smoke” prājyadhūma-: A widespread variant is ājyadhūma-, “the smoke of the [offerings of] clarified butter.”


“look on … with terror” trāsād dṛśyate: I agree with Cg in construing the adverbial trāsāt thus, rather than with nopabhujyate (as do Cm, Ct, “because of fear they only look at it, but do not take possession of it”; the NE’s tāta [for trāsād] speaks in their favor).


“is known by the name of that holy man” nāmnā … bhagavataḥ … prathitā: That is, the south is renowned as “Agastya’s quarter” (Cm, Cg; pace the construction of Ck, Ct, Cr, Cs). In view of the earlier attack of Virādha, some of the commentators wonder whether it is not in fact just the region near Agastya’s ashram rather than the entire south that is safe from attack by demons. But their explanations are more unacceptable than this slight contradiction.


The story of Mount Vindhya’s attempt (out of jealousy toward Mount Meru) to expand so as to block the course of the sun is narrated in MBh 3.101. Cr gives slightly different account (Mount) Vindhya was a student of Agastya’s, who sought to overreach the sun. At the time when Vindhya was performing the “eight-limb bow” (a full prostration) before his guru, the gods begged the aid of Agastya, who ordered Vindhya, insofar as he was his student, to remain bowed upon the earth until his return. And from that time on Agastya has remained in the south.

Several N manuscripts hereafter insert a verse describing Agastya’s other great feat, drinking up the ocean (185*; cf. MBh 3.101.15ff.).


“I will … live out what time remains” śesaṃ … vatsyāmy aham: Rāma’s intentions are not wholly clear. He has promised to extirpate the rākṣasas, and so could not actually reside for the remainder of the period in Agastya’s ashram, where we have just been told rākṣasas never come. Moreover, later he will ask Agastya to recommend some other site for his ashram (12.11), but see Agastya’s words in 12.16 and the note there.


“eager to uphold the ways of righteousness” dharmam ārādhayiṣṇavaḥ: Literally, “eager to propitiate righteousness,” a somewhat odd phrase (though occurring elsewhere, cf. MBh 12.76.17; Cr glosses, “that is, to accomplish dharma”), unless we are to think of dharma as personified (see also the note on 2.54.6). The variant in NE manuscripts, munim, gives the very reasonable (perhaps too reasonable) “eager to propitiate the sage.”


“ascended to heaven … in aerial chariots” vimānaiḥ … svar yātāḥ, As in 2.58.40-42, the ascension of the ascetic boy slain by Daśaratha.


“good creatures” bhūtaiḥ … śubhaiḥ: Cm, Ct understand śubhaiḥ substantivally, “by their good deeds”; I agree with Cg.

Since the gods have the power to grant such rewards anywhere, the commentators specify that here at Agastya’s ashram the rewards are bestowed in a very short time.

Sarga 11


Cg appears to hold that the purpose of this sarga is to demonstrate that Rudra is not to be worshiped (cf. below verses 17 — 18).


In this verse the presence of the syllable yam (vayam), which is the eighth syllable in the Gāyatrīmantra, indicates that at this point 7,000 verses of the (vulgate) Rāmāyaṇa have now been completed (Cm, Cg). This is the traditional method of counting the text; see the note on 2.39.5.


“with Rāma’s wife, Sītā” sītayā saha bhāryayā: Strictly speaking, this prepositional phrase is syntactically governed by the dual subject of the clause, a semantic problem that the NR sought to eliminate (200*).


“what I should do next” yad … anantaraṃ tattvam: For tattva in the sense of what one should do, what is proper, see 2.18.17 and note, and 34.22 below (tattvam … vākyam).


“ashram” -āśramapadam: A widespread variant here, and probably the correct reading, is -āśramadvāram, “to the door, entrance, of the ashram” (so read by Cm, Cg, Ck).


“in consequence of … words” -vacanāt: So I read, with the NR and M2, 3, for the crit. ed.’s (vākyam …) -vacanam, from which I derive little sense.


“Vivasvān, Soma, Bhaga … Dhātṛ and Vidhātṛ”: These are, respectively, the sun, the moon, an obscure vedic god who offers “shares” (of good fortune), and two other deities connected with fate.

Verses 17-18 are omitted in NE manuscripts, and the NW reads “Śiva” for “Agni” in 17b (Ck [Ct, Cr] glosses “Agni” as “Four-faced Rudra”; Dhātṛ he takes as referring to Prajāpati, Vidhātṛ as referring to Viśvakarman); after verse 18 the SR adds, “the shrines of Yama, Varuṇa, Gāyatrī, the Vasus, Nāgarāja [that is, Ananta], Garuḍa, Kārtikeya, and Dharma.” Cg calls these “shrines” temples for the worship of the different gods, who were (indirectly) referred to in the previous sarga (10.89, 91) as rewarding piety. “Insofar as Rudra is not mentioned among the gods worthy of receiving worship,” Cg adds, “it is implied that he is not worthy. Those people who nowadays do worship him are following the dark śāstras.”


“finally” prathamam: Against Ck, Cr, I agree with Ct (though only partly, for he construes the adverb with verse 24cd) that the sage does not sit down till this point (Rāma already being seated), because he has been so busy with their meal.


“mistreats” anyathā … samudācaran: Literally, “treats … otherwise” (sc., “than I have treated you”), though the line is elliptical. The NR simplifies here, “Having failed to honor an ascetic come to visit one”; Cg, Ck read an extra line at the beginning, “One should pour an oblation … and pay homage” (virtually repeating verse 24ab; this is not recorded in the crit. ed.). Some manuscripts add hereafter the oft-repeated verse, “When a man fails to honor to the best of his ability the guest who comes to his house, the guest goes taking all his [the host’s] merit, and leaving behind all his own demerit” (209*; cf. BrahmP 114.36).

“is destined to feed on his own flesh” svāni māṃsāni bhakṣayet: In the Uttarakāṇḍa 68ff. Agastya tells Rāma the story of Śveta, King of the Vidarbhas: He renounces his kingship to practice asceticism, and finally reaches heaven, but because of earlier acts of inhospitality (see 1157*, 1158*.1-2; PadmaP 5.33.99-100) he is doomed to suffer hunger there and to feed on his own flesh, until Agastya releases him from his karmic punishment. None of the commentators except Ctr mentions this story; the allusion to it here is certainly recondite, and perhaps all that is meant is something proverbial, such as the verse Ctr cites from Yama, “One who does not feed an ascetic when he comes to visit … and then eats [later], must feed on his own flesh in the other world” (vol. 3, p. 83).

Cg notes further, “This statement is in fact directed principally to Sītā under the guise of an address to Rāma (for Rāma, who is called ‘expert in the ways of righteousness,’ hardly needs such instruction). Sītā, as a result of this, will readily show hospitality to Rāvaṇa” (sarga 44, especially verses 31-33).


“you … are king of all the world” rājā sarvasya lokasya … bhavān: For a discussion of the significance of this claim frequently made in the Araṇyakāṇḍa see the Introduction, Chapter 4.


“belongs to Viṣṇu” vaiṣṇavam: Because there are not two bows of Viṣṇu made by Viśvakarman, this must be the bow Rāma took from Paraśurāma and gave to Varuṇa [GPP 1.77.1], who then either himself or via Indra gave it to Agastya, aware that the time for killing the demon Khara was near (Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct). Rāma has an overabundance of magical weapons, but this is not an unusual inconsistency in epic narrative (see Pollock 1986, p. 25 and note 2 [read there GPP Yuddhakāṇḍa 106, that is, crit. ed. 94], and 2.28.12-13). The bow Agastya gives him here will be used to kill Khara (3.27.19ff.).


“was given by Brahmā to great Indra, who gave it to me” brahmadattaḥ … datto mama mahendreṇa: This is the arrow that will be used to kill both Khara (3.29.25) and Rāvaṇa (6.97.4ff.). As the latter passage makes clear, the arrow was made by Brahmā and given by him to Indra, who subsequently gave it to Agastya. Cm, Ck, Ct take brahmadattaḥ as a proper name, too. Although this appears to be the case in 6.97.4, it is the radical signification of the compound that was more prominent, as verses 5ff. of the same passage demonstrate. The pair of quivers was also given by Indra, as RāmāCam p. 168 testifies (sautrāmaṇaṃ tūṇīrayugmam); Cv (reading dattau) in pāda c and the NR (reading dattā, taking tūṇī as feminine singular) sought to elucidate the construction.


“as Indra … once received his bolt” vajraṃ vajradharo yathā: Cg, Ck, Ct further exploit the simile: “Just as Indra took the thunderbolt because it was his, so you should take Viṣṇu’s weapons, because you are Viṣṇu.”

Hereafter several N and S manuscripts add,

Maghavan gave me this impenetrable armor, which is like nothing else on earth to the touch, and gleams like fire or the sun; and whenever you are in danger think about the vehicle, the heavenly chariot yoked with bays, and Mātali [Indra’s charioteer] will bring it to you. (213*; see Yuddhakāṇḍa 90 for the arrival of Mātali)

Some N manuscripts add, “Long ago, thousand-eyed Indra told me, Rāghava, ‘When Rāma comes here give him this bow’” (214*).


At the conclusion of this sarga, or within the following, most S manuscripts and (in anticipated agreement) the NW recension insert the following passage (App. I, No. 3): Rāma retires for the night, and in the morning asks Agastya for the story of how the region was settled. Agastya relates that he came by chance to the region south of the Vindhyas, finding it a desert. He invoked the rain god, exiled death and disease, brought trees from the Himalayas by the power of thought, and performed other comparable miracles until gradually the area became habitable. The rākṣasas, however, began their hostile behavior from the time Rāma reached Citrakūṭa, and Agastya has not stopped them, knowing that Rāma himself has the power to do so. Agastya finally beseeches him to save the sages and the land that his ancestor had once destroyed (the Daṇḍaka wilderness [cf. above 1.1 note and reference]).

Sarga 12


The sarga division is problematic, as Cg remarks. See also the insertion noted on 11.34.


“terribly wearied” pracuraśramaḥ: I take this as modifying khedaḥ in pāda a. There is no reason, with Venkatanathacharya, to assume two separate sentences (1965, p. 102 note).

“is most disconsolate” utkaṇṭhate: According to the commentators, “yearning,” that is, for a place to rest. But it would then be somewhat odd that they push on directly to Pañcavaṭī at the end of the sarga.


“and never before has sorrow heaped its scorn upon her” duḥkhaiś ca na vimānitā: This analysis agrees with Ct, Cr.


Compare the conversation between Sītā and her mother-in-law Kausalyā in 2.34.19ff.


“sharp as swords” śastrāṇāṃ tīkṣṇatām: That is, in respect of their readiness to sever the bonds of even long-held affection, according to Cm, Cg; they also suggest that the similarity between women and the wind or Garuḍa resides in their rash, inconsiderate behavior rather than in their quickness to run from a husband fallen on had times. Ck remarks that Kaikeyī may be intended as paradigm here.

A similar gnomic depreciation of women is found in 6.10.9: “Wealth and cows invariably go together, self-control and brahmans, fickleness and women”


“the goddess Arundhatī” devī hy arundhatī: Or, “the lady Arundhatī,” inasmuch as she is generally not considered a goddess (though see 2.110.10 and note; the NR largely eliminates the reference). She is the wife of Vasiṣṭha, family priest of the Ikṣvākus, but in fact is absent from the actual narrative of the Rām. The story is told in the MBh (3.214, especially verses 13-14) how the Goddess of the Sacrifice could imitate the form of all the wives of the seven seers, save that of Arundhatī, because of her fidelity and obedience to her husband (so also Ctr, vol. 3, pp. 84-85).


“this region” ayaṃ deśaḥ: Because of the deictic pronoun, the region referred to must be Agastya’s ashram (Cm, Cg, Ct).


“direct me to some … region” vyādiśa me deśam: It is unclear why Rāma should ask for advice about some other place to live, considering the intention he expressed in 10.86 above; but compare Agastya’s remarks in verse 16 below, with note there.


“by means of my … powers and in consequence of my affection” prabhāvena snehād … ca: The sage’s affection for Daśaratha was the reason he bothered to discover the events through his ascetic powers, according to Cg. Quite improbably Cm, Cs, “‘ … all that has happened to you in consequence of Daśaratha’s affection,’ that is, for Kaikeyī”; Cm (second interpretation), Ck, Ct, “‘ … in consequence of my affection,’ namely, for Rāma (Ct, “for one does not bother to learn by ascetic powers the history of one for whom no affection is felt”); and he also learned the history of what happened to Daśaratha.”


The thought is elliptical; only Ct (and Cr) explain in a manner that honors the syntax: “Even though Rāma had promised to dwell with Agastya [10.86; though this is before Rāma’s arrival, Agastya could have known of it by his ascetic powers], his inquiring in verse 11 here for information about some other dwelling place has led the sage to discover his real intention. For if he were indeed to dwell in Agastya’s ashram, Rāma could not slay the rākṣasas as he had vowed [5.20], since rākṣasas do not come there [or rather, those that do are peaceful; see verse 10.81].” But why then did Rāma promise in the first place?

As many manuscripts demonstrate, there was difficulty in perceiving the connection between verses 16 and 17; some N texts insert, “But if you do not desire to dwell here” (227*), and some S versions, “[But] all the people will find out that you are dwelling [here]” (228*).


“it is not too far from here, and the Godāvarī river is close by as well” nātidūre ca … godāvaryāḥ samīpe ca: So the commentators; but why should the region’s being “not too far” be of any importance? It is possible the true meaning is, “not too far from the Godāvarī, yet [not too] near it” (see 14.13).

The Mahābhārata places Agastya’s ashram at Prayāga (Allahabad) (vulg. 3.87.19-20, crit. ed. 85.14-15; compare Bhatt 1963, p. 402). This is obviously impossible, since the Godāvarī river, to which Rāma must be close, flows 500 miles south of Prayāga (it is Bharadvāja’s ashram that the Rāmāyaṇa places at Prayāga, 2.48.1ff.; Agastya’s is apparently near the Godāvarī itself in Rām 6.111.22).


“Although accompanied by a wife, you” bhavān api sadāraḥ: The only way I can understand the first half of this verse is to construe api … ca as a concessive collocation with sadāraḥ, and the second ca adversatively (cf. Speijer 1886, pp. 340ff.). To supply tāpasānām with parirakṣaṇe (so Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct, though the last two read sadācāraḥ for sadāraś ca) makes little sense.

“there” atra: In agreement with Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct.


“the banyan” nyagrodham: nyagrodha and vaṭa are synonymous, and Pañcavaṭī literally means “The place of the five fig trees.” The singular in this verse should be taken as jātyekavacanam (collective singular).


“upon a rise of ground” sthalam upāruhya: I take pañcavaṭī as governing the gerundial phrase, contra Cg (and PW s.v. sthala-, which is, however, right in its definition of sthala — against Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct, “treeless”; Cr, “level ground”).

“mountain” parvatasya: Or perhaps again a collective singular, “mountain range” (cf. girayaḥ in 14.14 below).

Sarga 13


“he encountered … a … vulture” āsasāda … gṛdhram: Internal evidence suggests that Rāma’s meeting with the vulture Jaṭāyus at this point in the story is an interpolation introduced after the work of the monumental poet (see the notes on 48.1 and 63.10). Bhoja, however, knows of their meeting at this juncture of the narrative (RāmāCam p. 168).


“in the forest” vanastham: The majority of S manuscripts read for this insipid adjective vaṭastham, “in the fig tree” (cf. 12.21-22 and note). The true reading, however, may be vanasthau with the NW recension (see vanastham … [rāmam] in 15.31 below).


“that immediately won them over” prīṇayann iva: iva functions here as a metrically shortened form of eva, as often in the epics and in the Rām in particular (so Cg, Cr; cf. the notes on 2.4.42, 12.2, 108.6).


“lords of creatures”: According to Ck, Ct, there are seventeen “lords of creation” (Prajāpatis); we must then (with Cr) understand bahuputraḥ as a proper name, to make out the full number (note, however, that Cm, Cg construe Ariṣṭanemi and Kaśyapa as referring to a single individual).


An “insertion” represented in both the NR and the SR describes the marriages and offspring of the remaining daughters of Dakṣa (233*).


Cm here notices, and tries in various ways to resolve, a contradiction with what he cites as a scriptural passage [untraced], in which Kaśyapa is said to marry thirteen of the daughters.


“willing” tanmanā: That is, to bear sons; the others bear only daughters.

Cg eliminates Danu from pādas cd, and includes Manu in verse 14ab by implication (see verse 29 below). Cm claims that only three obeyed their husband: Aditi, Diti, and Kālakā.


“the thirty-three gods” devās trayastriṃśad: The number is made out thus: twelve Ādityas, eight Vasus, eleven Rudras, and the two Aśvins.


The animal genealogy here and in the following verses is found also in the MBh (1.60.54ff.) in virtually identical form. Its southern manuscripts show some influence from the Rām tradition.

In the following list, the name of the mother generally is that of the species of bird (or animal) she bears; for instance, śyenī (verse 19) means “female hawk,” śārdūlī (verse 25), “tigress.”

“Krauñcī bore the owls” ulūkān janayat krauñcī: The NR reasonably reads “krauñcas (sārasa cranes)” for “owls,” a reading supported by some S manuscripts in MBh 1.60.55.


The NR again persuasively has Śukī bear the parrots (śukān) (242*), which is certified by MBh 1.60.57. It was perhaps in view of the reference in verse 31cd-32 below that the SR revised here.

“be pleased to know” bhadraṃ te: This (to the translator often troublesome) interjection is typically used with an imperative in the epics, in the sense of “please.” Here it is explained by Cg “as an attempt to secure Rāma’s attention to the somewhat irrelevant history” (“the usage is characteristic of the poet, as part of a direct address, that is, ‘Rāma, please listen,’” Ck [so Ct, Cr]).


“antelope, and yaks” sṛmarāś camarās tathā: According to Cm, Cg, Ct, the first are black-tailed yaks (“whose tails are used as hairpieces for women”), the latter, white-tailed (“their tails are used for royal fly whisks”).


“simians” harayaḥ: Not just good sense suggests these are not “lions” (so Cg, Ck, Ct, Cr); see also MBh 1.60.62-63.

“fleet (monkeys)” (vānarāś ca) tarasvinaḥ: This is probably the correct reading of the passage (transmitted, if sparsely, by NE, NW, and S manuscripts [Cg, Ck], and supported by MBh 1.60.62; see also Rām 5.44.31; 13.39 v.l.), for the crit. ed.’s unparalleled and improbable tapasvinaḥ (“miserable,” or “ascetic,” monkeys). I also read golāṅgulāś ca in pāda c, confirmed by the MBh (1.60.62cd) and by common sense.


“Śvetākṣa”: The reading of the MBh (1.60.64) is śvetākhyam, “called Śveta,” and is supported here by several N manuscripts (whereas the SR of the MBh reads as the SR manuscripts here).


In 2.68.15ff. Surabhī is said to be the mother of cows (so some N manuscripts here; see App. I, No. 4.22), rather than, as here, the grandmother.


“great serpents … snakes” nāgān … pannagān: The commentators attempt to differentiate between the two: “The former are snakes with multiple hoods; the latter are ordinary snakes” (Cg, “or, the former have the features of humans, but with hoods and tails”); “Nāgas are kinds of nonvenomous snakes; pannagas are the [mythological] serpents Vāsuki and the rest,” Ck.


“as is set down in the holy texts” iti śrutiḥ: See ṚV 10.90.12, where the four orders of brahmanical society are born from the Primal Being.

This verse is omitted in four S manuscripts (as well as by Cm, Cg [not noted in the crit. ed.], and atheticized in one manuscript of Ck), in the corresponding passage in the MBh (along with verse 29), and has all the signs of a clumsy (if old) interpolation. It is certainly odd to find it in the context of this cosmic (and in some ways comic) pedigree, given the theological importance of the vedic hymn.


“the thousand great serpents that hold up the earth” nāgasahasraṃ … dharaṇīdharam: One of the offspring of Kadrū is Śeṣa, on whom the world is said principally to rest.


Śyenī: Cm suggests that this Śyenī must either be different from the one previously mentioned (verse 19); or, since there are no laws among animals, Aruṇa may have married his great-aunt Śyeṇī (so Cg, Ck, Ct).


“Jaṭāyus’s (friendship)” (sakhitvam … ) ātmano: Literally, “his (friendship).” I read ātmano, with the NR and M1, in place of the crit. ed.’s irrelevant ātmavān. For the use of ātma- reflexive to a subordinate noun rather than to the subject of the sentence, see 2.64.24 and note.

Sarga 14


Cg remarks that this sarga will show how Lakṣmaṇa serves Rāma, in accordance with his mother’s words (2.35.8).


“wild animals” -vyālamṛga-: See the notes on 2.50.21, 53.5. (Cg glosses vyāla- as vicious snakes”; Ck, Ct take mṛga- as “gazelles, etc.”)


“‘the woodlands are all in flower’” puṣpitakānanaḥ: See 12.22 above.


“Which (place)” katarasmin … (deśe): The expected katamasmin is offered by only one manuscript.


“where there are forests and water to delight us” vanarāmaṇyakam yatra jalarāmaṇayakam: -rāmaṇyaka- is read only by the SR; it appears to be hapax.

Cg’s sthala- (“place,” for jala-, “water,” in pāda b) is supported by much of the NR (263*). He apportions the qualifications as follows: the forest’s beauty will satisfy Sītā’s desire for flowers, the beauty of the place, Rāma’s desire for rest, and the fuel, etc., Lakṣmaṇa’s desire to serve.


“you choose yourself” svayaṃ … rucire: I interpret svayam as equal to tavaiva, and take it closely with rucire.


“with a latticework of brilliant stripes” gavākṣitāḥ … paramabhaktibhiḥ: Cg rightly construes the two qualifications together and remarks, “People paint the sides of elephants with stripes in the shape of windows.” On this sense of bhakti- see 5.47.4, and compare Mallinātha on MeghDū 19. For gavākṣita- in this sense see 6.87.26, 109.24.


“with walls of clay” saṃghātamṛttikām: Translated in agreement with Ck, Cr (so too Cm, Cg, though they read saṃkhāta-).

“crossbeams” vaṃśa-: Thus Cg, on the authority of the Vaijayantī lexicon (Cm adds, “They were used for supporting the thatch”).

Virtually all manuscripts (save M3?) add or substitute “A house for Rāma, lovely and wonderful to behold” (268*.2, 269*, 270*.4).


It looks here as if Lakṣmaṇa is performing the vāstuśānti (or apotropaic rite at the construction of a new dwelling) with an offering of flowers. At the construction of the ashram on Mount Citrakūṭa, Rāma performed the ceremony by immolating whole a black buck (see 2.50.15-18 and notes there). Observe, too, that Lakṣmaṇa builds only one hut (see 2.50.13).


“tightly and affectionately” atisnigdhaṃ ca gāḍhaṃ ca: I agree with Cg in taking pāda c adverbially with pāda a (Cm, Cr join atisnigdham with vacanam, “[and spoke these] affectionate words”).


“wise in both thought and deed” bhāvajñena kṛtajñena: I understand these two adjectives as essentially complementary, as in the case of śāstrajña and kṛtajña in 2.1.20 (see the note there for this translation of kṛtajña- [supported by Cm, “‘Knowing the making,’ that is, the constructing of houses”]), instead of the more common “grateful” (Ct, Cr; it is not clear what benefit Lakṣmaṇa would be repaying). The commentators have little idea what, otherwise, to do with bhāvajña- (“‘knowing the feelings of others,’ that is, Lakṣmaṇa recognized that Rāma wanted a place to be alone with Sītā without his having to say it,” Cg).

“With such a son as you” tvayā putreṇa: The same sentiment is expressed, on a weightier occasion, in 2.105.17. Cm here reads. “With you as [my] protector,” explaining “You care for me just as my father did” (thus do Ct, Cr understand the reading of the crit. ed.); Cg, “‘My father is not dead but rather is fulfilling, as he always did, all my desires by way of you.’” The sense is certainly the same as in the earlier occurrence, namely, that Daśaratha has not been annihilated but is instead rejoicing in heaven, saved (trāyate) from hell (put) by his virtuous son (putra — so in part Cg; for the etymology, cf. 2.99.2 and note).


“bringer of glory” lakṣmivardhanaḥ: It is doubtful that this reading, in the nominative and construing with Rāghava (rather than in the accusative and construing with Lakṣmaṇa), is correct. The epithet is one of those most commonly used of Lakṣmaṇa (see 3.10.75, 11.19; 4.31.12; 6.89.9, etc.), and is nowhere, I think, found in reference to Rāma (though it is, once, applied to Daśaratha, 5.29.3). Moreover, none of the NR supports the reading of the crit. ed. But the almost unanimous testimony of the SR may mean more than the sheer conservation of an ancient corruption. Perhaps when used in reference to Rāma, as in reference to Daśaratha, the epithet has the more specific sense “successor to royalty.”

“gladly” vaśī: See the note on 2.10.2. Less probable here is the meaning “self-controlled.”

Sarga 15


“to bathe” abhiṣekārtham: There is a poignant shift in the meaning of abhiṣeka between Books Two and Three of the poem, from the sense of “rite of royal consecration” to that of “rite of ascetic ablution.”


“the most beautiful ornament” alaṃkṛtaḥ … śubhaḥ: “That is, because of the ripe crops and the like,” Ct, Cr.


“The world crackles with frost” nīhāraparuṣo lokaḥ: Or, according to Cm, Cg, “‘the world,’ that is, people; their skin is ‘rough’ to the touch ‘because of the frost’” (so Ct, Cr).


Cg cites Āpastamba: “One who has laid the sacred fires may not eat of the first fruits without performing the first-fruits sacrifice. When the rice, barley, and śyāmāka have ripened, one must sacrifice” (cf. ĀpaŚS 6.29-31). Autumn is the time for the first-fruit offering of rice, whereas the offering of barley is done in the spring.


“kings march forth on expedition” vicaranti mahīpālā yātrārtham; The topos of classical poetry is that autumn, after the rainy season has ended, is the season for military expeditions (see for instance RaghuVa 4.24). But Kauṭilya (ArthŚā 9.1.24ff.) allows much more latitude, as does the MBh (crit. ed. 12.101.9-10, cited by Ctr), “In the month of Caitra [March-April] or Mārgaśīrṣya [November-December] are military expeditions recommended. All the crops are ripe then, and the earth is full of food; the temperature is neither too hot nor too cold.”


After the autumnal equinox the sun’s vertical rays start moving south of the equator, the region of Yama (see 2.57.11 and note).


“the most pleasant time to stroll” atyantasukhasaṃcārāḥ: The reading of two V and B manuscripts is appealing: ādyantaduḥkhasaṃcārāḥ, “at the beginnings and ends (of these days) is it most painful to stroll (while at noon … ).” This would preserve pāda b from the redundancy that now affects it, and at the same time would more gracefully introduce verses 11-12.


“Mornings” divasāḥ: We must either read pratyūṣāḥ with NE manuscripts for the divasāḥ of the crit. ed. (an old dittography from verse 10?), or interpret that NE variant as a gloss on the reading of the crit. ed. (as I have done) and understand it in the sense of “daybreaks.” Neither solution is very attractive, but as the verse stands, it is in stark contradiction with verse 10. Furthermore, verses 10, 11, and 12 appear designed to account for the days, dawns, and nights, for which either of the above solutions would provide.

“the wilderness seems empty” śūnyāraṇyāḥ: “Because the animals stay in their lairs because of the cold” (Cm, Cg; “That is, the forest has lost its beauty, the snow having made the foliage ugly,” Ck, Ct, Cr).


“Led by the Puṣya star” puṣyanītāḥ: The reading found in Ś1, D1-3, puṣyanetrāḥ, “[nights] that have Puṣya as their leader, ruler [netā],” that is, nights when the earth is in alignment with the asterism Puṣya (see Kirfel 1920, p. 36), gives us certainly the intended meaning, and is probably original (unless it is a learned correction); see MahāBh on 5.4.116, vārt. 2. (Cm, Ct, Cr, “The length of the night-time is indicated by the presence of the Puṣya asterism”; according to the editors of the Mylapore ed., the close of night in winter is signaled by Puṣya.)

“gray” -aruṇāḥ: So Ck, Ct (“the word also means the color of doves, and is so used throughout this entire passage”), contra Cg on verse 13; cf. also 22.1 below.

“their three watches” triyāmāḥ: Night consists of three “watches,” each about three hours long.


“all [its] appeal has passed to the sun” ravisaṃkrāntasaubhāgyaḥ: The cool-rayed moon no longer has the power to attract people, as it can in the summer; it is the sun that now does so.

“clouded over” -andhaḥ: The entire verse is cited by Ānandavardhana in his great work of literary criticism, the Dhanvyāloka (p. 180, with the otherwise unattested reading in pāda b, -āvṛta- for -aruṇa-), in the course of his discussion of the instance of “suggestion” when the literal meaning of a word (here andha-, literally “blind”) is not only unintended but completely “lost” in the signification of the verse.


“You mark it, but miss its beauty, as with Sītā when she is flushed with sun” sīteva cātapaśyāmā lakṣyate na tu śobhate: Cm, Cg understand, as if to eliminate any possible criticism of Sītā, “It looks like Sītā when she is flushed with sun — but does not have her beauty” (a rhetorical figure known as vyatireka, whereby a simple simile is transformed so as to emphasize the excellence of the tenor at the expense of the vehicle). The NR reads “haggard by asceticism” for “flushed with sun.”


“Mist” bāṣpa-: The word is rare in this sense, but cf. RaghuVa 13.29. (So also basically the commentators; Ct, citing anye, “frosty dewdrops”; Cm, Cg, Ck, Cr, “vapors, as from a well.”)


“color” -ākṛtibhiḥ: Though the word normally means “shape,” Cm, Cg, Ck are probably correct to take it in the sense of “color” here (that is, tawny; Ct, Cr are undecided, “They are like date palm blossoms because they are both bowed and yellow”).


Hereafter the SR adds a charming verse, in which “a thirsty elephant touches the cold clear water … but then withdraws its trunk” (280*).


“wrapped up in the darkness” -tamonaddhāḥ: To Cg, the three qualifications indicate, respectively, that the trees are motionless, covered in a blanket, and with their eyes closed (thus producing a figure of speech called utprekṣā, or poetic fancy). Cm, attempting to explain the repetition of the word “darkness,” suggests that in the first instance, the interior darkness of closed eyes is meant; in the second, the external darkness (Ck, Ct, Cr, similarly seeking to eliminate the tautology, take the first compound with tamaḥ as a dvandva [“darkness and hoarfrost”], the second as a karmadhāraya [“darkness that is snow, i.e., a blinding snow”], restricting the first to the evening, the second to the morning).


“has the bitter taste of poison” rasavat: I see no other way to understand the verse than with Cg: though the water is the purest possible — that found on the clean mountaintops — its icy coldness makes it impossible to drink, and so almost like poison (see verse 5 above; rasa- in the sense of “poison” is rare; Cg cites as authority the lexicographer Bāṇa).


“the filaments and cups shriveled” śīrṇakesarakarṇikaiḥ: The compound is a karmadhāraya, functioning (like patraiḥ) as upalakṣaṇe tṛtīyā with kamalākarāḥ (the kesaras and karnikas surely do not belong to the leaves, as per Cr). But the syntax is admittedly awkward, and I suspect the correct reading in pāda a to be padmaiḥ with many S manuscripts and commentators.


“in the city” pure: Actually, in the nearby village Nandigrāma (cf. 2.107.2 and note).

Lakṣmaṇa’s attitude toward Bharata as expressed here is a significant departure from his previous statements (see 2.90.13ff., 3.2.23), one for which the poet has not adequately prepared the reader.


“At this moment” velām imām: Accusative of time at which (cf. 2.37.26 and note, and 5.65.26).


“in the last watch of the night” apararātreṣu: “Like a woman newly widowed who goes out before people begin to stir about, so as not to have to look at them, Bharata is afraid of meeting people and hearing them say that, as Kaikeyī’s son, he is responsible for the tragedy,” Cg. A likelier interpretation is that since Bharata is now living as an ascetic (see 2.107.20-21, 6.112.6-7, 113.26ff.), he performs his morning ablutions at the hour appropriate to ascetics.


“devoting himself” āśritaḥ: “That is, he has taken up activities similar to Rāma’s” (Ct, see 2.107.20-21).


Cg rather suspiciously: “As Lakṣmaṇa observed the travails of Rāma and Sītā in the early morning — bathing in the cold lake and so on — he was overcome with grief and as a result made ready to reproach Kaikeyī. But realizing that Rāma would immediately grow angry if such reproaches were made, he first described the winter scene, incidentally as it were mentioning Bharata and so finding a chance to denounce Kaikeyī.” Despite Rāma’s advice here, note that he has already denounced his stepmother himself (above, 2.17-18), and will do so again (3.56.7-8 [so also Sītā, 46.28 and note]). The seventeenth-century poet Nīlakaṇṭha Dīkṣita cites this particular inconsistency as an almost essential component of Rāma’s human avatāra (in his Nalacaritranāṭaka, prologue 3 [cited by Filliozat 1967, p. 48]).


“our middle mother” ambā madhyamā: See above, 2.18 note.


“But no, do not: For determined though I am” niścitāpi hi: A strong adversative force must be extracted from this clause, and it may well reside once again in the particle hi (see above, note on 8.28).


“They … intoned the hymn” stuvanti: The plural verb makes Cg anxious, and he hastens to point out that Sītā’s hymn does not include any vedic mantras (which women were, later at least, prohibited from using). Whether or not the poet himself shares this anxiety is uncertain (cf. the note on 2.17.7, and on the plural as occasionally representing a dual, the note on 2.31.17, and below, 67.20 and note).


“resembled the blessed lord Rudra” rudraḥ … bhagavān iveśaḥ: Ct is without question correct, in my view, when he remarks, “By using this simile of Rudra the poet signals that Rāma’s mind is now bent on the destruction [of the rākṣasas].” The references to Rudra (Śiva) will become more frequent over the coming sargas (see 23.27, 24.10, 24.26, 29.27) as the aesthetic mood (rasa) of the poem turns to raudra, “the ferocious” (the “presiding deity” of which is Rudra, cf. NāṭyaŚā 6.44), and the hero’s terrible slaughter of the demons. See also the Introduction, Chapter 5.

“Nandi”: Śiva’s attendant, iconographically represented as a snow-white bull.

“the daughter of the mountain king” agarājaputryā: Pārvatī (also known as Ūmā, Gaurī, etc.), the wife of Śiva.

Sarga 16


Sine the events of the Rāmāyaṇa are uniquely important to the cultural calendar of traditional India, determining them precisely preoccupies the commentators throughout the poem; each significant event has to fit into a sound chronology. Here, Cg argues that the events about to occur take place in the spring three years after Rāma’s arrival in Pañcavaṭī, that is, at the beginning of the fourteenth (and last) year of his exile (the preceding description is that of his first winter in Pañcavaṭī, recounting the new hardships of his life there). The calculation behind this is complex, but is based on the following key points: Rāma had spent ten years visiting the different sages of the forest (10.25); after Rāvaṇa’s abduction of Sītā, he gives her one year to submit to him (54.22 below); this period is nearly over by the time Rāma arrives in Laṅkā (5.35.7-8; 5.56.89); the victorious hero returns to Ayodhyā directly after slaying Rāvaṇa, fourteen years to the day since his departure (6.112.1, 14). (A complete chronology of the events of the poem is given by Cg on GPP 6.124.1, and is discussed at great length by Ct on GPP 6.108.35; see also Ct on 17.26 below).


After this verse the SR adds, “And he stayed there happily, honored by the great seers” (285*), providing the interval required by the chronological interpretation as instanced in Cg on verse 1 above.


Hereafter much of the NR inserts a passage in which Jaṭāyus comes and asks leave to return to his own dwelling, since Rāma is himself skillful (enough to provide protection); he promises to return after seeing his friends. Rāma dismisses him (286*; cf. 41.49, 48.1, 63.10 and notes; the insertion is motivated principally by the problem raised in 48.1 note).


“Śūrpaṇakhā”: Literally, “Whose nails (claws) are (the size and shape of) winnowing fans.”

“thirty gods” tridaśa-: A standard rounding-off of the “thirty-three gods,” whose number is made up as at 13.14cd-15ab above.


The rhetorical figure here is known as the viśamālaṃkāra, defined in the SāhiDa (10.71) as among other things “the juxtaposition of the incongruous” (so noted by Ct).

Śūrpaṇakhā, as a rākṣasa woman, can take on any form at will (cf. verse 18), something rākṣasīs often do in order to seduce anchorites or kshatriyas (cf. MBh 1.139.15ff., Hiḍimbā’s seduction of Bhīma), something in fact Rāvaṇa himself will do (below, sargas 44ff.). It is therefore odd that she retains her natural hideous appearance here. Several N manuscripts seek to correct this by having her reflect (in an insertion hereafter, 289*) on assuming a heavenly form. But this obviously is contradicted by the sequel, despite the NR’s attempts to alter it (e.g., 295*, 305*); see further in the Introduction, Chapter 6.

Śūrpaṇakhā’s behavior in this scene will later be censured by the rākṣasa women of Laṅkā (cf. 6.82.6ff., especially verse 9, “an utterly absurd deed, one that she never should have done”). Her conduct is not only ridiculous (and that the passage is meant to be humorous to some degree is certain, however cruel a humor we may find it; cf. the note on 2.29.24 for a similar instance) but also sinful: She is behaving as an adulteress, and for that she will be appropriately punished by Rāma the king (see below, 17.20-21 and note on verse 21). The incident as a whole fits in with the pervasive deviant sexuality of the book, recapitulated in Rāvaṇa’s rape of Sītā.


“Rāma has matted hair like a hermit, female companionship like a lover, and armaments like a kshatriya,” Cg. On the antinomy of Rāma’s nature, cf. Virādha’s statements above, 2.10cd-12ab (and see Pollock 1986, p. 70 and note 11).


The SR adds, “For with your charming body you do not look like a rākṣasa woman to me” (296*), a verse the commentators find difficult to explain (Venkatanathacharya 1965, p. 134 note may be right to think the statement sarcastic).


“who lies ever fast asleep” pravṛddhanidraś ca sadā: Not really “ever.” Kumbhakarṇa was given a boon by Brahmā allowing him to sleep for long (usually six-month) stretches, waking then for only a day to have a bite to eat (see 6.48.11ff.; 7.10.39) — until, as the poet Kālidāsa puts it, “Rāma’s arrows lulled him into the long sleep” (RaghuVa 12.81).


Ck, Ct claim that another brother, Triśiras, is omitted here because, like Vibhīṣaṇa, he behaves in ways inappropriate to a rākṣasa (see below, 22.33, 25.23ff. and note on verse 23; there are two individuals named Triśiras, one a general in Khara’s army, the other a son of Rāvaṇa).


“But I am prepared to defy them” tān ahaṃ samatikrāntā: On the immediate futurity of the past passive participle, see the note and reference on 3.25 above. “Transgress, defy,” seems to be the normal semantic range of the verb in the Rām. (cf. 2.18.26, 27.29, 61.24). I interpret Śūrpaṇakhā’s remarks to mean: I do not care what my brothers think about my loving a human being (or, about my entering into a marriage without their consent or knowledge). This is not too distant from the commentators (“I am ‘beyond them,’ that is, I do what I like,” Cg; “that is, I fear nothing they might do to me for pursuing you,” Cm, Ck, Ct; the last two also suggest, “‘I excell them’ in power,” as substantiating their first explanation).


“worthy” sadṛśī: Generally indicating that the two parties share a commensurate rank and status (see 2.3.23 and note).

“I alone am suited to you; look upon me as your wife” aham evānurūpā te bhāryārūpeṇa paśya mām: I translate the pādas in agreement with Cr. Venkatanathacharya (1965, p. 136 note) suggests instead, “I alone, by reason of my beauty, am a wife [bhāryā rūpeṇa] deserving of you; look at me.”


“slut” asatīṃ: It may perhaps be that Śūrpaṇakhā thinks, like Virādha earlier (cf. 2.11), that Sītā is being shared by Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa (see also Khara’s words in 18.19 below). As the sequel seems to emphasize, however, the only one guilty of unchastity is Śūrpaṇakhā herself (compare the reappearance of the phrase in 17.20, carrying with it a tone of rectification).

“with her pinched waist” nirṇatodarīm: So essentially Cg, Ck, Ct, Cr, but Cm’s “potbellied” points to a problem in the tradition’s understanding of the meaning of the word (when the adjective reappears in 5.22.15 in reference to the “hideous” rākṣasa woman Vinatā, the commentators gloss “high waisted” [? unnatodarī], Cv, Cg; “narrow waisted,” Cm; “deep” or “very deep waisted,” Ck, Ct). See 17.13 note.


“wild-eyed” madirekṣaṇām: Less likely, “lovely-eyed,” Cg (cf. 2.14.14; Cm, “red-eyed”).

Sarga 17


“in jest” svecchayā: The reading should be marked as uncertain, insofar as the Northern Recension has nothing of the sort (it merely expands what I have translated as the causal phrase). Cm glosses, “having fun mocking his brother”; Cg, Ck read svacchayā, “lucid” (sc., “words”); and Ct believes the correct reading (cf. 303*) to be svacchandām, “the self-willed female” (if the word can mean that; contrast 6.104.22). The problem is by no means trivial — and perhaps for that very reason has the passage been subjected to such considerable revision — for the correct reading would give us some sense of the moral quality of Rāma’s behavior. He is either intending to teach the immoral (svacchandā) creature a lesson, or exhibiting a self-indulgent, and to some extent cruel, levity (svecchayā). We should remember that the events about to take place here provide the impetus to the major event in the epic — Rāvaṇa’s abduction of Sītā.


“still unmarried” akṛtadāraḥ: Lakṣmaṇa is of course married, according to both the Bālakāṇḍa (72.18ff.) and the Ayodhyākāṇḍa (2.110.51 and note). Since “Rāma never lies,” the commentators attempt to explain away the remark. Cg, Cr argue that the statement really means “Lakṣmaṇa does not have his wife with him.” Ct reasonably suggests taking the words at face value, on the grounds that “when one is joking a lie is not considered reprehensible.” For a discussion of the issue of Lakṣmaṇa’s marital status and its text-historical significance, see Goldman 1984, pp. 64ff.


“inseparable as sunlight and Mount Meru” merum arkaprabhā yathā: The sun-light (feminine gender in Sanskrit) is said to be always in contact with Mount Meru (masculine), the center point of the world, around which the sun revolves. The simile is used of Rāma and Sītā in 2.35.21.


“lotuslike beauty” kamalavarṇini: I read the vocative with several S manuscripts and most of the commentators.


“potbellied” (a)nirṇatodarī: nirṇatodarī is used only of Sītā (cf. 16.23 and note, 17.11, 15), whereas Śūrpaṇakhā is called mahodarī (16.8, 17.20). Since there are no persuasive variants, I feel compelled to understand the adjective with the negative prefix. The adjective recurs in 5.22.15 and 6.82.6, but in the very same phrase, karālā nirṇatodarī, where presumably the same sandhi is present. See also the note on 16.23 above.


In the retelling of the incident by the later poet Kālidāsa, Śūrpaṇakhā, after her second solicitation of Rāma, flies into a rage when Sītā laughs at her (RaghuVa 12.36).

“Rohiṇī’: See below, note on 44.5.


“mutilate this misshapen (slut)” imāṃ virūpām … virūpayitum arhasi: Kālidāsa had these words in mind when describing Lakṣmaṇa’s act as a “tautology” (vairūpyapaunaruktyena, RaghuVa 12.40).


“cut off the … ears and nose” ciccheda karṇanāsam: This type of mutilation is prescribed in the lawbooks as punishment for adultery and fornication; see the Introduction, Chapter 6, and below, 18.14 (in the MBh [3.261.44] her nose and lips are cut, but not her ears). Note that in the Bālakāṇḍa (25.11), Rāma threatens Tāṭakā with a similar punishment.


“Khara”: Literally, the “Harsh One.” It is less likely that Vālmīki intends the pun “ass,” though in some folk Rāmāyaṇa traditions, as in the Rāmlīlā of Banaras, Khara is represented as a donkey. (AmaK 1.3.36 and 2.9.77 allows both meanings.)

There is some uncertainty about the kinship relationship of Śūrpaṇakhā and Khara. According to the MBh version of the Rām, Khara is Śūrpaṇakhā’s twin brother (3.259.8); in Rām 7.24.30, he is her “brother” insofar as he is the son of Śūrpaṇakhā’s maternal aunt (in 7.9.21-27, in the story of the birth of the siblings Rāvaṇa, Kumbhakarṇa, Śūrpaṇakhā, and Vibhīṣaṇa, Khara is not mentioned).

“Janasthāna”: Khara has been stationed in this region under orders from Rāvaṇa (see 34.4-5 below, and 7.24.29ff.), but the narrative does not make clear just where this is. Although it seems here as if Śūrpaṇakhā is leaving Pañcavaṭī and entering Janasthāna (cf. also 26.5), in 42.21 Rāma’s ashram appears to be situated in Janasthāna itself (note additionally 44.6). Perhaps we have two names for the same area.


“told” śaśaṃsa: As often in the Rām, the lyric verse at the close of a sarga provides a synoptic preview of the coming action (so Cg, “The poet summarizes in this one verse the matter of the following sarga”; see the note on 18.21, 19.25 and, for a particularly dramatic example, 56.20 and note). We must thus temper our surprise, on reading sarga 18, to learn that Khara knows nothing of the events that have occurred.

Ct appends a learned note on chronology here, arguing that, since two additional months have to be intercalated in the calendar every five years (he cites MBh 4.47.3), there is some controversy over exactly when the thirteenth year began and thus when the events surrounding Rāvaṇa’s abduction of Sītā take place. (He adduces the PadmaP [probably the Bengali recension (cf. note on 2.51.4) but PadmaP 4.36.21-22 is similar] but notes that there are variant readings of that passage, too.) See further on 16.1 above.

Sarga 18


“(you) go your way (like Death himself)” (antakasamā) gatā: The reading of the crit. ed. is improbable (I more or less follow Cg, Ct; Cm understands āgatā, “returned”). The NR offers the plausible yudhi, “(you are like Death himself) in battle.”


“Which one of the gods, gandharvas, spirits …” devagandharvabhūtānāṃ … ko ‘yam: Despite the formulaic appearance of the list, we infer that, like Rāvaṇa (30.18, Introduction, Chapter 4b), Khara disdainfully dismisses the power of humans. Much of the Khara episode in fact prefigures the story of Rāvaṇa.


“chastiser of Pāka” pākaśāsanam: The rather obscure epithet was interpreted in the epics and later as referring to an asura named Pāka (brother of Vṛtra, according to Cm); cf. for example BhāgP 8.11.19ff.


“Today I will take someone’s life” adyāhaṃ … prāṇān ādāsye: The indefinite pronoun has, awkwardly, to be supplied; the NE seeks to remedy matters with the attractive reading kasya (“whose?” for adya).

“the crane” sārasaḥ: Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct, Cr gloss “goose,” the feat being normally attributed to the royal goose. The precise significance of the simile, however, escapes me. Khara may mean, “I will not cause universal destruction (or rather, the destruction of all those divine and semi-divine creatures previously mentioned — though I could easily do it), but only take the life of that one malefactor.” But this seems vaguely out of character. Perhaps the simile refers simply to his separating the life breaths from the body. NE manuscripts in any case replace the figure with another, “As the sun takes off the scanty water of a pool [sarasaḥ] with its beams” (327*), which has the appearance of a literate revision of the original, and no longer understood, topos.


The verse will be repeated nearly verbatim by the rākṣasa widows during their lamentations for their dead and their expressions of fear for their king, Rāvaṇa, whom “No god … could save” once he is joined in combat with Rāma (6.82.27; the reading in this latter verse, upasṛṣṭam, is offered by the NR here for the improbable apakṛṣṭam).


The commentators here address the fact that even though Śūrpaṇakhā was injured by Rāma, she can still speak positively of him. Cm, citing 2.18.5, remarks, “The virtues of Śrī Rāma’s heavenly beauty bring blessings to friend and foe alike, and therefore Śūrpaṇakhā, though mutilated by him, describes his beauty in the conviction that by so doing she will come to experience the supreme [spiritual] happiness.” Rather similarly Cg, “(All she had to do at present was identify Rāma, yet she describes his beauty) because, though she was mutilated, her passion has not abated and she feels herself forced to speak what is in her heart. This is what happens to people — adversary or partisan — who have once seen Rāma. This is comparable to the case of Hanumān’s describing Rāma to Sītā [5.33.8] (when all he had to do was mention Rāma’s distinguishing marks).”

After this or the following verse most S manuscripts insert,

Living on fruit and roots, temperate men, ascetics who follow the ways of righteousness, they are two sons of Daśaratha, the brothers Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa. (330*)


“Whether they are gods or men” devau vā mānuṣau vā tau: On the possibility that such a statement may be more than a rhetorical flourish, see the Introduction, Chapter 4.


“whore” anṛjuvrttāyāh: See above, the note on 16.23. Cg remarks, “The implication is that Śūrpaṇakhā thinks the princes mutilated her at Sītā’s instigation.”


Cm reports a story (said by him to be found in the MBh, although I have not been able to locate it) that in a previous existence Khara was Candrakānta, wise son of Yājñavalkya (both Dūṣaṇa and Triśiras were thought to have been his sons, too, in an earlier birth), who, by reason of Śiva’s curse, was reborn in a demon’s body. The curse was set to terminate when Viṣnu, incarnated as Rāma, should slay him. In accordance with his usual interpretation, Cm argues that on hearing the story of Rāma from Śūrpaṇakhā, Khara comes to understand that Rāma is Viṣnu, and, longing for death at Rāma’s hands, he instructs the demons to engage him in battle under the pretext of pleasing his sister. Thus although Khara’s words might at first seem harsh, they are its fact kindly. (Ct objects to this analysis: Khara and the others who became rākṣasas by reason of Śiva’s curse had, from the very beginning of the curse, no knowledge of the Blessed One’s form [that is, his having taken the form of Rāma]; only at the moment of death would they remember the limit to the curse, and regain their true forms by recognizing His form.)

Jacobi (1897, pp. 605-6) may have been correct in arguing that the following account of the attack of the fourteen rākṣasas is a copy (Abklatsch) of the fight with the fourteen thousand rākṣasas (sargas 21ff.). It is absent from both tables of contents (1.1.47, GPP 1.3.20); neither the Rāmopākhyāna nor Kālidāsa knows anything of the incident.


Hereafter a verse appears that, according to manuscript distribution, ought to have been included in the text:

But the rākṣasas, armed with sharp arrows though they were, found themselves incapable of quelling that man of supreme power; they were like elephants in the midst of a raging forest fire. (344*)

As with 17.26 (see the note there), this would supply a brief summary of the subsequent action.

Sarga 19


“come to the aid” padavīm āgatān: Here and in 20.12 I am inclined to see an idiom of sorts (see also pw, s.v. padavī). This also agrees with Cm, Cr.


“Daṇḍaka forest” daṇḍakāvanam: The lengthening (presumably metri causa) is, I believe, unique to this passage.


“that have wrought havoc” viprakārān: Ct, Cr understand the form as an ablative, “because of your crimes”; I agree with Cm, Cg, Ck.


“wicked creatures” saṃduṣṭāḥ: So I read against the crit. ed. For saṃtuṣṭa- can hardly bear the meaning with which the commentators feel compelled to laden it (“‘content’ that is, unafraid,” Cg; “‘content with’ [that is, prepared for giving] battle,” Cr). As we have seen elsewhere (2.78.8 and note there; see also the variants recorded at 3.43.22), this is a very common corruption for saṃduṣṭa-, which is attested here in both the NW and S recensions.

“come no closer” nopasarpitum arhatha: upasarpitum (“to come forward [to meet],” compare MBh 5.193.342-35), accepted by the crit. ed., is apparently the reading of the NE version. But this actually makes sense only if at the same time we accept the NE version of pāda (“withdraw from here”). For when one commands “Stay, stand” in Sanskrit battle poetry, it usually means “Do not run from me, stand and fight” (see 3.9 above, 49.25; 6.91.20, etc.). The likelier reading may therefore be nāpasarpitum (with D3, corroborated by the reading nopāvartitum of Cg, Ck, Ct), “(stay where you are …) do not retreat.”


“shivered … unacquainted” hṛṣṭādṛṣṭa-: Double sandhi (noticed also by Ct and questioned, unnecessarily, by Cr).


“sharpened on stone” śilāśitān: In agreement with Cm, Ck, Ct, Cr; improbably Cg, “‘sharp even against stones,’ that is, able to split rocks.”

“iron shafts” nārācān: Adducing literary sources Pant 1978, p. 162, describes the nārāca as made wholly of iron, and used only by the strongest and most skilled archers. (Apparently no nārāca of the ancient period has been found.)


Most of the NR has the arrows return to the quiver of their own accord (352*).


“ghastly shriek” bhairavaṃ ravam: A light pun (technically a pādānta yamaka).


Again the final verse summarizes the substance of the following sarga (so noted by Cm, Cg, Ct).

Sarga 20


“to (Khara’s) ill luck” anarthārtham: Or, “‘to the misfortune,’ namely, of the rākṣasa tribe,” Cm, Ck, Ct, Cr; “‘for the destruction,’ that is, of the rākṣasas,” Cg.

“her collapsed … in a rage” patitāṃ … krodhāt: My construction is against that of Cr (“he addressed her in a rage”), who alone remarks on the adverb.


“They kill” ghnanto ‘pi: Here, as Cm notes, api is not concessive, but emphatic.


“unassailable” durdharṣā: An ornamental epithet tenaciously holding its place despite the narrative impropriety (cf. note on 27.6 below).


“I shall not hesitate” nirapatrapā: That is, “shall have no qualms, shall not scruple,” though this is not absolutely certain. The NR reads the vocative (“O shameless” [Khara]), whereas the explanation of the commentators (“She is said to be ‘shameless’ because her nose and ears have been cut off,” Cg, Ck, Ct) sheds little light.


“armed … with his bow” sacāpasya: The NE version omits the reference, and much of the SR substitutes, “even attended by your forces” (sabalo ‘pi or sabalaś ca), eliminating what might appear to be a vacuous detail. Yet there is a peculiar sanctity that seems always to have attached to the image of “Rāma with his bow” (the bow often referred to by the odd word kodaṇḍa; see further in Ghurye 1979, especially pp. 47ff.), perhaps partly in recognition that the bow is the one professedly Vaiṣṇava attribute that he bears (see 11.29 above). This seems to me to lend a certain authenticity to the reading of the crit. ed.

Sarga 21


“Khara … (spoke) with great harshness” kharaḥ kharataraṃ vacaḥ: A fight pun (technically a pādādi yamaka), of which the poet seems particularly enamored (cf. for instance 21.26, 23.1).


“The contempt shown you” tavāpamāna-: I understand the genitive as objective (so also Venkatanathacharya 1965, p. 156 note), rather than subjective (“The contempt you have shown” [of me], thus Ct).

“as irrepressible as the heaving salt sea water” na śakyate dhārayituṃ lavaṇāmbha ivotthitam: My interpretation of the simile is that of Cg, Ck, and the NW recension; otherwise Cm, “‘(as unbearable as) an … infusion of salt water,’ that is, upon a wound,” but this is hardly indicated by the language of the verse.


“I care nothing for the power of Rāma” na rāmaṃ gaṇaye viryāt: Thus the parallel version of the NR, 378*. Alternatively, “I care nothing for Rāma because of (my own) power” (thus it seems Ct, Cr); cf. 22.19.

“Because of those evil acts of his, he is doomed to lose his life” ātmaduścaritaiḥ prāṇān hato yo ‘dya vimokṣyati: Rather differently the commentators: “Already struck down by his own evil acts …” (Ct, essentially Cg, Ck; Cm is silent). But what would this imply in the present context, except that the retribution is somehow inherent in the crime, as if Khara saw himself as an instrument of cosmic justice? But that is hardly likely. We do best to take the instrumental, not as means or agent, but as cause ( 2.3.23), and construe hataḥ closely with vimokṣyati. (Note that the NE recension, reading hato yuddhe, could not have understood the line as Ct does.)


The NE version graphically expands: Khara will dismember Rāma and his sister will eat the limbs, and he will have Sītā’s flesh prepared in sauce for himself (379*).


Hereafter NE manuscripts add eight verses supplying the praise spoken by Śūrpaṇakhā (380*).


“Impatiently” amarṣāt: Cm glosses “angrily,” citing the Śakunaśāstra (“Textbook on Augury”), “Anger presages [or, leads to] the failure of the enterprise.”

“auspicious designs worked in gold” kāñcanaiḥ māṅgalyaiḥ: I agree with Cg, Ck in construing these qualifications with all the substantives in verse 15.


“harpoons” vajraiḥ: For this identification, see Rau 1973 (and cf. Das Gupta 1975).

Sarga 22


“showered down” abhyavarṣat: The double accusative with this verb is awkward. Many manuscripts read a locative absolute in pāda a.

“water red as blood” śoṇitodakam: I understand the compound as an upamāsamāsa with Cg; Ct, “water mixed with blood” (which is supported to some extent by 6.83.33, vavarṣa rudhiraṃ devaḥ).


“like the ring of a twirling firebrand” alātacakrapratimam: The circle described by a torch when whirled. This may be the first occurrence (see also 4.45.12) of a favorite image of illusionist philosophy (in addition to the epic references cited by Bhatt 1963, p. 404, cf. MūlaMāKā 17.33 and LaṅkāSū 9.3).

The verse is describing the beginning of the eclipse mentioned in verse 11 (here the reference is to the projection of the moon’s disk, with its red edge, onto the sun with its pale white corona).


“inauspicious” sudāruṇaḥ: The word appears to be a technical term of augury (cf. 55.3, 65.11 below; 6.91.4, 94.25, 27).


“In an unpropitious quarter” pradīptāyāṃ diśi: Certain acts, sounds, and the like made by a bird or beast may be reckoned inauspicious, and so by extension is the quarter of space in which the animal is located. See BṛSaṃ 85.15 (D. Pingree, personal communication).

“jackals … boding ill” aśivāḥ … śivāḥ: Again a light pun (yamaka, but I find no traditional category for this particular sort).


“crumbled mountains” prabhinnagiri-: The commentators try to make sense of the feeble simile: “that is, whose wings have been cut off by Indra,” Cg, alluding to an ancient myth (cf. note on 2.83.19); “massed mountains,” Cm; “running with minerals,” Ct. Several S manuscripts, Crā, and Ck read instead “rutting elephants” (prabhinnagaja-), whereby the red madder would construe very effectively with the blood-red water of the clouds. Unfortunately the lection has no support from the NR.


“fresh blood” kṣatajārdra-: I take the compound as paranipāta (for ārdrakṣataja-; Cg instead, “[‘the color of,’ that is, a cloth for example] ‘wet with blood’”; so Cm, Ck, Ct). On the frequency of such inverted compounds in the epics see the note on 2.41.27.


“dreadful to look at” ghoranidarśanāḥ: Taken as synonymous with the more common ghoradarśana, against Cm, Cr, “being examples of bad omens,” and Ct, “indicating danger,” since both explanations appear tautologous in view of pāda c.


“A cloud like a barrier-omen” kabandhaḥ parighābhāsaḥ: My translation derives from the definition of parigha- in BṛSaṃ 85.51-52: parigha- is an unfavorable omen appearing before and behind an army (D. Pingree, personal communication). On this interpretation, the two half verses are not narratively related. But I remain uncertain because parallels in the epics point to a more logical connection between the two events. It is thus possible also to translate, “[Rāhu’s] headless corpse, resembling a streak of cloud.” That kabandha- (on the word itself see Renou 1939, pp. 390ff.) may mean, not “cloud” (so Cg), but “the headless corpse” of Svarbhānu is made probable by MBh 5.108.111 (kabandhaḥ pratidṛśyate svarbhānoḥ), and by the NR variant here (sakabandhaḥ … svarbhānuḥ, 395*, a reading interestingly reported by the SR of the MBh elsewhere in that epic, e.g., 6.108.9). For its part, parigha- in the sense of “(streak of) cloud” is corroborated by the parallel in MBh 8.31.41 (kabandhaṃ meghasaṃkāśaṃ bhānum āvṛtya saṃsthitam). (Cm [repeated by Ct], Cg gloss “appearing like an iron club”; cf. also Belvalkar 1947, p. 756.)

Cg cites NītiSā [17.27] for the portentousness of the sight of a corpse near the sun (a warning against encamping an army).


“(Meteors … ) crashing” (ulkāḥ … ) sanirghoṣāḥ: All but one D manuscript (and Ct, Cr) read instead sanirghātāḥ (corroborated to some extent by 2.4.17 and 6.94.18; the pāda as constituted occurs nowhere else in the epics). Although this seems to mean much the same thing as the reading of the crit. ed. (see for example Kullūka on ManuSm 4.105 or Mitākṣarā on YājñaSm 1.145), Cg here glosses it as “(meteors) along with whirlwinds” (he cites from Varāhamihira [BṛSaṃ 33.8]: “When a meteor … struck by the wind falls from the sky to the earth, it becomes a nirghāta,” but this seems to mean “lightning flash,” which is not what Cg intends).


“(are) doom(ed)” viparyayaḥ: I agree with Cm on the sense of the noun; Ct implausibly, “[Because of whom (that is, my sister) they suffered this ‘transformation,’ that is,] in the form of their savage intention [to mutilate her]” (so too Cr).


“gods, and gandharvas” devagandharvāḥ: See 23.17; or, “divine gandharvas” (see the note on 2.85.14).


“in a body” sahitāḥ: Not “benignly” (Cg, Cr).


“the god who bears the discus” cakrahastaḥ: That is, Viṣṇu. In place of the Vaiṣṇvava simile (rare for the Rām), the NR offers “Indra, Slayer of Pāka.”

Sarga 23


“of mass destruction” sarvabhūtāpahāriṇaḥ: The variants of the NR confirm this meaning for the compound (Cr most improbably construes with sarvarākṣasān in pāda d), though this sets up a contrast with the second half of the verse that some adversative particle would be expected to signal (the NR reads in pādas cd, “[obliteration] of all human beings”).

“to foretell the annihilation” saṃhartum: Thus we must assess the force of the infinitive, with Ck, Ct.


“my arm” me bāhuḥ: The NR makes it explicit that it is Rāma’s right (auspicious) arm.


“looks bright” suprabhaṃ … lakṣyate: Contrast Rāvaṇa in 6.83.33, vivarṇavadana-, “his face was drained of color,” just prior to his final battle with Rāma. See also 21.14-16 note above. This appears to be a common omen in epic battles; see MBh 6.20.2, Sukthankar 1929, pp. 171ff.


“you to question” pratikūlayitum … tvayā: The infinitive has a definite passive aspect, a rare usage (though cf. 5.33.59).

“by these feet” pādābhyām: That is, in essence, “upon my life” (prāṇaiḥ is in fact read by M3; cf. 2.18.38, śāpitāsi mama prāṇaiḥ). Cg is referring to what appears to be a later usage when he comments, “‘You are implored by my feet’: Rāma is using [in the third person] the mode of address that Lakṣmaṇa would himself use toward him” (that is, Rāmapāda).

The SR adds hereafter,

“You are a mighty hero and certainly able to kill them, but I myself wish to kill all the rākṣasas.” [That is, because of his personal promise to the sages to safe-guard them (9.16).] (418*)


In a passage inserted by the NR after this verse the following lines are found: “We know who Rāma is, and how it happened he came to earth; but at the thought that he is now a man, our minds are shaken with pity” (423*.1-2). For some comments on the idea here, see the Introduction, Chapter 4.


“stormed about” jṛmbhatām: Ck, Ct remark, “By jṛmbhaṇam is signified the effect of taking an intoxicating substance in order to commence a battle without a thought for one’s life.”


“filled himself with … rage” krodham āhārayat: Cg makes it appear as if the verb has an actual causative sense, as if, that is, Rāma had to generate or work himself into a rage: “Though of a benign aspect he ‘excited his own anger’ in order to pluck out this irritating thorn [the rākṣasas].” Such instances of the verb phrase as MBh 7.165.125 and HariVaṃ 89.33, of the verb itself in similar contexts (see 14.24 above), and of the parallel expression krodhaṃ bheje (see 25.20 below) tell against the traditional explanation.


The parallel with “Iliad” 18, where Achilles appears in his divine armor radiating firelike flames, is striking. For perceptive comments on the “elemental vision” of the Greek epic poet, which are in some ways easily transferable to Vālmīki, see Whitman 1958, pp. 137ff.


“the god who wields the pināka bow” pinākinaḥ: Śiva.

“the sacrifice of Dakṣa” dakṣasya … kratum: Śiva was excluded from the sacrificial rite undertaken by his “father-in-law,” Dakṣa, which he in a fit of rage proceeded to disrupt (a story told often in Sanskrit literature, beginning with ŚatBr

For the significance of the Śaiva simile, compare above, 15.39 note.

NR insertions hereafter show the rākṣasa army as being literally stunned by the appearance of Rāma, until Khara resolves to attack him (App. 1, Nos. 5, 6).

Sarga 24


“sought to kill” nijaghnuḥ: I give the perfect a conative aspect, as it appears to have elsewhere (see note on 2.12.18, but compare 43.36 note below); otherwise, simply though less plausibly, “they struck” (they do not actually reach Rāma until the next verse).


“king of mountains” śailendram: Himālaya.


“Śiva, the great god” mahādevaḥ: The half verse is absent in the recension of Cm, Cg (on what grounds the editor suspects haplography I do not know).

“his hordes” gaṇaiḥ: Śiva is often depicted in the company of ghastly, deformed attendants (his gaṇas).

“on a moonless night” tithiṣu: So basically Ct, Cr (who gloss with pradoṣa-); this is largely eliminated in the NR.


“Rāghava met the weapons” śastrāṇi … rāghavaḥ pratijagrāha: Indian epic heroes have the wonderful ability to arrest (and usually split) enemy weapons in midflight with their own arrows.


“bending his bow into an arc” maṇḍalīkṛtakārmukaḥ: “Rāma keeps his bow arced, the more swiftly to place and discharge arrows,” Ck, Ct.


“lofty standards” dhvajāgrāṇi: Literally, “tops of standards,” rather than “the best of standards” (as required by Sukthankar 1942, p. 1103, and 30.4 below; cf. 2.24.7 and note).


“reed darts” nālīka-: So Cg (Cm, Ck, Ct, Cr add that these arrows are tipped with iron).

“barbed arrows” vikarṇibhiḥ: “An arrow tipped with a barb that rips out the intestines when it is drawn out,” Cm (so Ck, Ct, Cr).


“took their lives and cut their throats” jahāra … prāṇāṃś ciccheda ca śirodharān: Note the hysteron proteron (to which Cg also calls attention).


“seeking refuge from the arrows” śaraṇārthaṃ śara-: The Sanskrit contains a pun (pādādi yamaka); on the poet’s verbal playfulness at moments of high drama see 2.20.32 note.


“like Death … Rudra” rudram ivāntakaḥ: The simile of Śiva killing, not Death (antaka), but the demon Andhaka is found frequently in the battle books of the epics, although the full story is not reported until the purāṇas (cf. for example MatsyaP 179.2-40: the demon Andhaka, empowered by a boon, attempts to steal Devī and is defeated by Śiva). In both epics the two major recensions invariably disagree on the correct spelling of the name, southern manuscripts always offering Antaka, northern manuscripts generally Andhaka (see Rām 3.29.27 below, and 6.33.6; MBh 7.48.10, 130.38; 8.15.8, etc.; what appears to be the first reference to the myth, AV 11.2.7, gives the name as Ardhaka). But Ct on 29.27 below is able to locate a myth in which Śiva is said to slay Death, and Cg alludes to it here (“Yama was conquered by Rudra”). I should still be inclined to alter the reading of the critical text here, except that no manuscript supports -andhakaḥ, the NR for the most part having an altogether different pāda (“as Namuci … Vāsava”), whereas the Lahore edition does in fact read antakam, supported to a degree by NW manuscripts.


The NR hereafter inserts a passage in which Rāma shoots a gāndharva arrow that confuses the rākṣasas, who begin to slay each other in the belief they are slaying Rāma (463*; in an SR insertion Rāma similarly employs a gāndharva arrow, but without the same results, App. 1 No. 7.5ff.; the NR receives some corroboration from Kālidāsa, RaghuVa 12.45). Identical is 6.81.22ff., when during the final battle with Rāma, the rākṣasas are “confused by a gāndharva weapon shot by the great one, and see thousands of Rāmas on the battlefield” and so begin to slay one another. This is something of an epic topos: in the Mahābhārata, Bhīma, at the height of his prowess, is viewed as being multiplied a hundred-thousand-fold (6.55.22); so too Abhimanyu, who makes use of the gandharva weapon (7.44.21-23), and Arjuna, who uses the tvāṣṭra weapon (7.18.11-12).

Sarga 25


“narrowed his eyes like a bull” nimīlita ivarṣabhaḥ: This suggests to Cg that “despite the shower of arrows, Rāma is unruffled and untroubled” (Ck, Ct believe him to close his eyes from the rain of weapons).


“Dūṣaṇa, the ‘spoiler of enemies’” dūṣaṇaḥ śatrudūṣaṇaḥ: Again a pun (yamaka or lāṭānuprāsa) in the original.


“lightning bolt” vajrāśani-: Not “diamond or lightning bolt” (see below, vajrāśanikṛtavraṇam, 30.7).


“banner of Śakra” śakradhvajaḥ: See note on 2.68.29.


“all the creatures” sarvabhūtāni: Presumably those mentioned in 22.26.


“Mahākapāla, Sthūlākṣa, and … Pramāthin”: The names signify, respectively, “Big-skull” or “Fat-head,” “Goggle-eyed,” and “Crusher” or “Bruiser.”


“like a lofty tree newly sprouting with twigs” viṭapīva mahādrumaḥ: Obviously the arrows protruding from the demon’s eyes are meant to be likened to the sprouts of the tree (contra Cg and Cr).


“smoky” sadhūmāḥ: “That is, ready to burn, not like a coal [whose fire is encased within],” Cg.


“From out of that whole army” tasya sainyasya sarvasya: Cg glosses sainya- as “combatants” in order more logically to include Rāma; but the inconsistency (or better, the poet’s changing his thought in midverse) is not unusual in the epics. Since other rākṣasa warriors are later shown to be still alive (cf. 26.19), Ct takes the opportunity to note that “each of the rākṣasas still had his private retinue left” (the ṭīkā on Cm notes that the poet in this verse is referring only to the principal fighters).

“Triśiras”: This rākṣasa should be distinguished from the son of Rāvaṇa who bears the same name (6.56.3ff.; he is killed by Hanumān in 6.58.42). The incident of his death here, referred to elsewhere (see below, 30.1-2, 34.2-3, 9), is too prominent to warrant Hopkins’s view (1915, p. 43) that “like a Homeric combatant,” it is one and the same Triśiras who is slain twice. See also the note on 16.20.

Sarga 26


“I touch my weapon as proof” āyudhaṃ cāham ālabhe: For touching one’s weapons as a solemn corroboration of an oath (so Cr here) see note on 2.18.13.

“whom all the rākṣasas should have slain” vadhārhaṃ sarvarakṣasām: Thus in agreement with Ct, Cr (so Cg, Ck, who gloss the genitive as instrumental). Cm, Cs suggest, “who [has been] able to slay all the rākṣasas,” which is preferable in sense but grammatically dubious. Or it may well be, “who deserves to be slain because of, for the sake of, all [these] rākṣasas [whom he has killed]”; cf. 28.24 (though this signification of the genitive would be nonstandard, cf. 2.3.26).


“return to Janasthāna” janasthānaṃ prayāsyasi: According to 42.21, Rāma (and thus his assailants) are at present in Janasthāna (see also 17.25 note above).


“So” tena: Note the glossarial variants of the NR for this adverbial signification (evam).

“in his eagerness to die” mṛtyulobhāt: The commentators for some reason wish to weaken the phrase: “‘eagerness for battle induced by ‘Death’ [Doom]” (Cg, Ck; Ct adding, “There is a deeper meaning: He is ‘eager for death’ at the hands of the Blessed One, having recognized his true nature now that, at the moment of death, his rākṣasa character has been transformed”).


“a triple-peaked mountain” triśṛṅga iva parvataḥ: The name Triśiras means “Three-headed.”


“a bass drum when its skin has been dampened with water” jalārdrasyeva dundubheḥ: Ck is no doubt correct to suggest that “treating a drum with water prepared with herbs increases its resonance,” a practice continuing to the present day. (Cg is in error when he explains the simile to mean that the demon’s voice was lost [cf. MBh 1.142.29 for an instructive parallel]; Ct claims that his roar was the opposite of what was expected, and thus augurs his coming death).


“with his bow” dhanuṣā: Cg, Cr construe this with the final phrase, “‘brandishing,’ that is, shooting ‘his … shafts with his bow’” (a redundancy uncharacteristic of the poet).


“strong-jointed” saṃnataparvabhiḥ: I am not altogether certain this translation is correct, but the commentators do not help here. Nīlakaṇṭha on MBh 6.45.44 vulgate glosses, “whose junctures are imperceptible.”


“his own heads” svaśirobhiḥ: I understand the instrumental here as upalakṣaṇe (as for example in 25.9 above; thus also Ct), rather than, with Cm, Cg, as hetau (that is, “insofar as his own heads had fallen”).


“the surviving rākṣasas” hataśeṣāḥ … rākṣasāḥ: See note on 25.23.


“turned away” nivartya: The causative aspect seems to be otiose (as in 47.19, 70.18 below; see note on 2.17.8). Cs takes it literally (“as they ran he ‘turned them back’”), but as far as the poet is concerned, these rākṣasas are no longer part of the story.

Sarga 27


“Dūṣaṇa and Triśiras”: The reading dūṣaṇas triśirā (the latter also as nominative), though having apparently some manuscript support, is syntactically impossible here. Taking a hint from the SR’s triśirodūṣaṇau I read accusative dual with archaic lopa of the semivowel /v/ (and triśirāḥ declined metri causa as an a-stem).


“as once Namuci attacked Vāsava” namucir vāsavaṃ yathā: One of Indra’s great feats as recounted in the Ṛgveda is the slaying of the asura Namuci ; the story, insofar as it shares certain thematic elements with the Rām, is considered in the Introduction, Chapter 4.


“use of ( … maneuvers with arrows)” cacāra ( … mārgān śaraiḥ): Although the reading cakāra is supported by the oldest commentators and most of the SR, the choice of the crit. ed. (offered by several S manuscripts, Ct, and the NE recension) is corroborated by MBh 7.63.5, carantas tv asimārgāṃś ca dhanurmārgāṃś ca śikṣayā, and elsewhere in that epic (6.50.45; 7.13.51, 65).


“Rāma, the great chariot-fighter” mahārathaḥ … rāmaḥ: So called here and in verse 30 below, despite the absence of a chariot (see 25.22, “fighting … on foot”) — a sort of virodhābhāsa or “apparent contradiction” — either because of the well-known conservatism on the part of epic poets with respect to standing epithets (the “sweet-smiling Damayantī” while she is heaving with sobs, the “swift-footed Achilles” while he is sitting in his tent; cf. 20.6 and note above), or according to the traditional view because of his prowess in battle (the Mylapore edition cites the śāstric definition of the term, “He who all alone can fight with ten thousand … is called mahāratha”); thus Cg, contra Cm, Cr, who take sa to refer to Khara (which appears to have been the understanding of the NE version; note its variant in pāda d).

“drew his huge bow and filled … every quarter” diśaḥ … pūrayām āsa … sumahad dhanuḥ: Without great confidence I explain the verbal construction here as a zeugma (see below verse 22 note, and the notes on 2.74.8 and 90.10; for this verb in the sense of “span, draw” see PW, s.v. 1. par 2. causative). There are two alternatives to this: taking the verb as a true causative (“caused his bow to fill”), or reading sumahādhanuḥ (that is, as a bahuvrīhi compound, as is faintly indicated by M2).


“his body radiant as the sun” ādityavarcasaḥ: Cg understands the adjectival phrase proleptically, “(Rāma) who (after his corselet fell) had the radiance of the sun.”


“that the great seer had bestowed” yat tad atiśṛṣṭaṃ maharṣiṇā: Agastya had given the bow to Rāma at 11.29.


“like the sun falling by order of the gods” sūryo devatānām ivājñayā: Cg calls the rhetorical figure an utprekṣā (“poetic fancy,” and he takes ājñā “order” to mean “curse”), Ck, Cr call it an abhūtopamā (“similitude with something nonexisting or nonoccurring”), since the sun does not fall to the earth. Cs plausibly assumes that merely the sun’s setting is meant.


“took aim at his heart … wounded … body” gātreṣu … vivyādha hṛdi: The reading hṛdi found in a few S manuscripts and accepted by the crit. ed. (for the lectio facilior yudhi) is certified by the NE’s urasi (533*). But the two locatives then pose something of a problem, and once again a zeugma may be present.


“Rāma, his body drenched with blood” sa rāmaḥ … rudhirasiktāṅgaḥ: Cr, reluctant to admit that the blood is Rāma’s, claims it to be that of the many rākṣasas he has slain. The problem is whether Rāma can bleed, or rather the higher-order question of the god’s humanness. The dominant theological position is articulated by Cg later in the poem: Rāma has to appear thoroughly mortal, for his incarnation is in part to instruct people; “if they believed He was immortal, they would think that they could never adhere to righteousness the way He does. But if they were to think him mortal, they would feel themselves able to imitate his ways.”


“well aimed” abhilakṣitān: So Ck, Ct; Cm, “excellent,” Cg, “famous.”


“shot”: Two of the oldest commentators, Cv and Cm, remark that the verb has to be supplied from a previous verse, and although this is rare in Vālmīki, no manuscript convincingly testifies to the contrary.


“with three … the main yoke pole” tribhis triveṇum: This component of the chariot appears to consist of a threefold piece of bamboo (hence the name triveṇu-); cf. Sparreboom 1985, p. 91.

“with two, the axle” dvābhyām akṣam: One manuscript amends, “the two axles.”

Sarga 28


“his tone of voice was mild” mṛdupūrvam: “Because he was trying to be reasonable,” Ck (so essentially Cg, Ct). Rāma never raises his voice; see 55.15 below and 2.1.15.


This should not be taken as a general remark (so Ck and apparently Ct), like verses 3-5, but one directed specifically at Khara (Cm, Cs, Cr) in reference to his crimes of slaying the seers (see verse 6).


“like a lizard that feeds on hailstones” brāhmaṇī karakād iva: I agree with the commentators in analyzing karakād as an (upapada) compound, karakān atti. “The red lizard dies from eating hailstones [not poison, as Satya Vrat would have it, 1964, p. 6] as quickly as if it were poison; just as the lizard itself commits an act that kills it, so does Khara” (Cg; Cm, “It is well known that hailstones are poisonous to the red lizard [and that it dies the very moment it eats them, Ct]”). This convention may be well known, but I have not seen it mentioned elsewhere in Sanskrit literature. The sentiment of the simile, however — that one who acts without considering the consequences learns his bitter lesson when it is too late — is voiced frequently in the Ayodhyākāṇḍa; compare for example 2.57.5, 60.6.

“its end result” tasyāntam: The pronoun refers back to a substantive (e.g., karmanaḥ) implied by kurvānaḥ.


The theme of karmic retribution formulated by Rāma here, as by Daśaratha in 2.57.4-9, is examined in the Introduction to the Ayodhyākāṇḍa, Chapter 5.

Cg (on verse 7) remarks on the immediacy of retribution for heinous crimes: “Those who commit minor sins experience the consequences of their deeds in another birth; but the cruel … perish quickly [that is, in this very world]” (compare his comment on 2.57.7).


“I come as king” aham āsādito rājā: Cm, Cg (not Ck as per the crit. ed.) read rājñā, “(I was appointed) by the king”; Ck, “‘I was brought,’ namely, by the seers”; cf. 29.31 (but of course Rāma is supposed to be unaware of this at present). The entire NR supports the reading of the crit. ed. (see Gorresio ed. 3.35.11 and Lahore ed. 3.34.10). Rāma’s calling himself king “suggests he possesses the authority to suppress the wicked” (Ck, Ct). On Rāma’s being regarded (and regarding himself) as king throughout the Araṇyakāṇḍa (despite such later statements as 4.18.9, 11, 23ff.) see the Introduction, Chapter 4d.


“shall hasten after” anugamiṣyasi: Circumlocution for “shall die” (so Ct, who rightly refers to verse 13; not, with Cg, “because evil though they may be, men who fall in battle have the chance to gain heaven”; nor, with Cm, “men who are slain by Rāma attain the highest world,” a theological position echoed in the SkandaP: “The rākṣasas who met Rāma in battle and were slain … took the path of absorption [into God],” cited in VSP ed., p. 170).


“and you, slain by my arrows, in hell” tvām nihataṃ bāṇaiḥ … nirayastham: Ct, continuing the theological speculations here of the commentators on the previous verse, asks how one slain by God can go to hell. He explains that one who has committed a heinous crime such as brahman murder must necessarily first suffer the consequences of it. After suffering the torments of hell, one may then attain the highest state, but only if the Blessed One wills it.


“lowest of your kind” kulādhama: Or, with Ck, Ct, “low by reason of your kind, breed.”


“bring up his family” kulaṃ vyapadiśan: Ck and Ct believe Khara is referring to Rāma’s words in verse 10. But there Rāma can hardly be said to boast of his lineage (or could Khara mean make a slur against his own, Khara’s, lineage, as in verse 14?).


“like false gold smelted down in a grass fire” suvarṇapratirūpeṇa tapteneva kuśāgninā: The force of the simile would have been more direct had we the genitive ([laghutvaṃ] suvarṇapratirūpasya taptasya): Rāma’s vain boast (since brave men do not boast) shows his worthlessness, as a grass fire shows that imitation gold (Cg, “brass”) is worthless. Such is Cm’s explanation; however, I do not see that the grass fire is similar to the boast in point of “impropriety” (Ck); Ct elaborates, “Prior to the heating one may believe the vessel to be gold, but that belief vanishes after the heating; similarly the prima facie belief [on Khara’s part] in Rāma’s heroism is dispelled by his boasting.”


Observe of course Khara’s own vaunting.


“lest the sun go down” astaṃ gacched dhi savitā: “Although night would in fact augment the rākṣasa’s strength [cf. Hopkins 1915, p. 39], he would win no glory in killing a human being, who grows powerless at night. Such is Khara’s meaning,” Cg (so Cr). As Bhatt also notes (1963, p. 405), battles in epic India (as in Homeric Greece) were conventionally suspended during the hours of darkness.


“(tears) for the … rākṣasas” rākṣasānām ( … aśru-): I analyze the genitive as objective, according to the sūtra cited above, 26.3 note. It is less likely that we are supposed to understand it subjectively (the tears they are weeping now, in their death), despite the later recurrence of the phrase in this sense (6.83.17).


“a superbly banded club” gadāṃ paramāṅgadām: Presumably Khara’s club is wound about with golden straps, like that of Dūṣaṇa (cf. 25.5).


The NR adds hereafter a passage explaining that the club was given to Khara by Kubera, and that Rāma realizes he must use a divine weapon against it, the Āgneya arrow (the arrow “of the god of fire”) (549*).

Sarga 29


“Rāghava, who cherished righteousness” rāghavo dharmavatsalaḥ: Although this is usually an ornamental epithet, Cg takes the reference to dharma here as signifying Rāma’s appreciation of the wrong that would be committed in slaying an unarmed combatant.

“in a passion ( … with a smile)” (smayamānaḥ … ) saṃradbdham: Troubled perhaps by the apparent contradiction, Cg takes the adverb as an adjective with kharam (understood); I agree with Cr (cf. verse 13).


“trust in your arrogant vaunting” abhidhānapragalbhasya tava pratyaya-: The genitive seems definitely to be objective, though Ck, Ct, Cr take it subjectively: “The club, by its own destruction, has destroyed your confidence (in it), namely, that you would slay your enemy with it.”


“as Garutmant”: For Garuḍa’s theft of the soma, see below, 33.33ff. (and MBh 1.24ff.), and compare 2.22.14 note. I find the simile in this context to be odd; it is unlikely that the poet merely wishes to emphasize the decisiveness of the act. At all events, there is an interesting contrariety in using the figure, which expresses the attaining of immortality, in a context where death is threatened.


“your dwelling place your resting place” janasthāne hatasthāne: Literally, “people’s place” and “place of the dead.”


Ct observes, “Although it is inappropriate for the Blessed One to address [even] low creatures in this manner, he does so in order to produce the necessary excess of the anger-inducing guṇa tamaḥ, which will provide for the tāmasa destiny [of Khara]. This is required to make good his threat that Khara will go to hell” (cf. 28.13).


“all six senses” -ṣaḍindriyāḥ: The standard five, along with the mind as the seat of concept formation.

Ct interprets this verse as Khara’s reflection on himself: “At the moment of death the form of the Blessed One has appeared to him; and by implication he begs forgiveness for his own had conduct.”


I interpret in accordance with the NR, which quite reasonably transposes the clauses “glanced around” and “spotted a huge sāla.”


“fury” roṣāt: Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct connect the adverb with pāda a (“He broke out in sweat ‘because of his fury,’ not because of fatigue”). In accordance with his theological position Ct notes, “Here, too, anger is only assumed by the Blessed One, as an actor might do; it is not real, but only meant to sustain belief in his humanness.”


“Mount Prasravaṇa”: This mountain is located in Janasthāna (cf. 59.20, 60.10 below, UttaRāC 1.25.3).


“drunk on the smell of his own blood” matto rudhiragandhena: Fastidiously Cm and Cg take the instrumental as upalakṣaṇe (“drunk [and, sc., pervaded] with the smell of blood”); I agree with Cr.


“sidestepped” apāsarpat pratipadaṃ kiṃcit: So essentially Cm. Cv explains, “He went the opposite way, avoiding Khara as he fell upon him; he moved behind Khara by the way the demon had taken” (Cg, incorrectly I believe, takes pratipadam as adjective to Khara, explaining, “Rāma moves away to get the necessary room to shoot his arrows,” that is, Rāma is not retreating [so Cm, Ck, Ct, Ctś]). Rāma’s apparent retreat here is made a subject for a taunt in UttaRāC 5.34c.


“a fiery arrow” pāvakasaṃkāśaṃ … śaram: Pant (1978, p. 180) has collected evidence suggesting that the practice was known in ancient India of using arrows with flammable materials in the tip. From the Rājataraṅginī the author cites what may be “the actual instance of the use of ‘burning arrows smeared over with vegetable oil, struck by which the enemies caught fire.’” Perhaps, however, the “burning” in the present passage is the sensation of poison (see 32.6 below).

The word order of the verse is quite dislocated (schematically a C A c B a), signaling I think the climactic moment (see 2.24.16, 2.96.4 and notes).


“given by the … king of gods” dattaṃ … surarājena: See 11.30 above.


“the way Andhaka once”: See above, 24.26 and note. Ct here remarks, “The killing of Andhaka the asura is well known from the purāṇas. A widespread variant here is antakaḥ [“Death”]. It is known from the Māhātmya [of Śiva] that the god destroyed Death in the White Forest [“on the banks of the river Kāverī,” according to Cm], in order to prolong the life of Mārkaṇḍeya. In sarga 36 of the Uttarakāṇḍa of the Kūrmapurāṇa, we are told of a royal seer named Śveta, a great devotee of Śiva’s, who practiced asceticism on Mount Kālañjara. When Death came to kill him, Śiva destroyed Death with a blow from his left foot” (see sarga 35 of the crit. ed. of the KūrmaP; at the end of that narrative, Brahmā reminds Śiva that Death had done nothing wrong in coming to take away King Śveta — it was his appointed hour — and the god consequently consents to his revivification).


The three supreme deeds of Indra: for the killing of the demon Vṛtra by means of the thunderbolt, see ṚV 1.52; for the killing of Namuci with the foam of the sea, see 27.3 note and Introduction, Chapter 4c; for the killing of the demon Bala (or Vala) by the same bolt, see ṚV 10.67 and elsewhere. Cg here observes, “The first simile is employed to indicate that the killing was done by an unfailing weapon; the second, that it was done effortlessly; the third, that [the victim] was endowed with great capability”; Ck (Ct), “By means of the four similes concerning the destruction of Andhaka and the others [which could be achieved by no one other than] Rudra and Indra, the poet reveals the indestructability of the rākṣasa Khara in any way and by anyone other than Rāma or Brahmā.” Note that Rāma’s glorious deed of slaying Khara is used as a simile already in the battle books of the MBh (e.g., 7.82.28, “Having killed [Durmukha], Sahadeva was as brilliant as Rāma, son of Daśaratha, after he killed mighty Khara”).


“supreme seers” paramarṣayaḥ: Brahman seers, according to Cg.


See sarga 4 above, especially verses 18-19 note. The HariVaṃ (31.118) appears to support the argument made here: “While dwelling in Janasthāna he (Rāma) did what was required by the thirty gods.”


“The great seers contrived a means” upāyena maharṣibhiḥ: Śarabhaṅga (presumably under orders from Indra) instructed Rāma to go to Sutīkṣṇa (4.30); Sutīkṣṇa sent him to Agastya (10.34); Agastya gave Rāma the divine weapons and instructed him to go to Pañcavaṭī (12.13ff.) (cf. also Venkatanathacharya 1965, p. 214 note).


Cg provides a detailed allegorical interpretation of the sarga based on Teṅgalai soteriology: “Sītā’s going into the cave without Rāma, and then coming out and embracing him after he had destroyed all the enemies, suggests the individual soul’s going into the cavity of the heart, and being totally dependent: thereupon, under the guidance of a teacher, it ‘sees’ the supreme Lord, after He [or, the teacher?] has removed all the obstacles. The soul then ‘comes out’ and meets with the Lord, around whom the assemblies of the wise ever sit, and experiences the stream of His delights” (cf. Cg’s comment on 2.47.22).

After sarga 29, the SR inserts (and without doubt it is an interpolation, and a clumsy one) an entire sarga (App. I, No. 10):

Akampana (a spy of Rāvaṇa’s, according to Cg), returns to Laṅkā and reports on the slaughter of the rākṣasas in Janasthāna. When Rāvaṇa in a rage asks who is responsible, Akampana replies that it was Rāma. Rāvaṇa supposes that Rāma is in league with Indra and the other gods, on which Akampana corrects him. Rāvaṇa asserts that he will go to Janasthāna and slay Rāma and his brother. Akampana then expounds on Rāma’s prowess, praising him with attributes suggesting Viṣṇu, and telling Rāvaṇa he will be unable to conquer him. Akampana then goes on to suggest a plan: He urges Rāvaṇa to abduct Sītā — he describes her in detail — explaining that, left without his wife, Rāma will die. Rāvaṇa assents, and the next [day?] departs on his flying chariot to visit the demon Mārīca. When Rāvaṇa demands his aid in abducting Sītā, Mārīca tries to dissuade him. He succeeds, and Rāvaṇa returns to Laṅkā.

The plot of the interpolation is impossible in view of what follows, and is aesthetically mediocre.

Cg here takes the opportunity to set forth in abundant detail the allegorical construction of the Rāmāyaṇa as a whole, as a complex exposition of the śaraṇāgatimantra (or “sacred formula on taking refuge [with the Blessed One]”).

Sarga 30


“splendid palace” vimānāgre: See 2.24.7 note. Cm, Cg take vimāna- in the sense of the Puṣpakavimāna, Rāvaṇa’s aerial chariot. This is probably correct. For although Puṣpaka is generally represented as a conveyance, Rāvaṇa’s palace is called Puṣpa in 5.6.11 (which Cg there and on 5.7.1 equates with Puṣpaka), and in 5.7.9-15 it is clearly identified as a structure within which there is a kind of inner chamber (see Cv and Cg there, though contrast Ck on 5.7.18).


“a golden altar” rukmavedi-: The image is not sheer fantasy. Sacrificial altars made of golden bricks are mentioned by Āpastamba, according to the citation of Cg, Ck (see ĀpaŚS 19.11.1).


“invincible in combat with gods, gandharvas, spirits … ” devagandharvabhūtānām … ajeyam: A reference to the boon bestowed on Rāvaṇa, clarified to some degree in verses 17-18 below. See also the Introduction, Chapter 4b.


“wounds” -vraṇam: Rāvaṇa’s being only “wounded” by the thunderbolt shows he is not subject to death (at the hands of the gods), as Cg, Ck, Ct observe.

“gored” utkṛṣṭa-: In agreement with Ct, Cr.


“marks of royalty” rājalakṣaṇa-: This probably refers simply to his royal bearing, less likely to specific markings on the soles of the feet of universal monarchs (see note on 2.92.6).


“sparkled with … beryl” -vaidūryasamkāśam: vaidūrya- almost certainly signifies “beryl” (“cat’s-eye” or “golden” beryl); see Mayrhofer 1956-1980, vol. 8, pp. 267-68 (interestingly, Srī Laṅkā has traditionally been a major source for this semi-precious stone). This rules out Ct’s gloss, “looked like,” for Rāvaṇa is deep blue-black (see 50.18, 21 below).


“He could … perturb” kṣobhaṇaṃ … -kāriṇam: I understand the pāda as forming a single phrase, with the noun exceptionally dependent on the verbal adjective. Cg, Ck, Ct (so Cr) take kṣobhaṇam as an agential noun (kartari lyuṭ, 8.8.118), “a perturber ( … acting effortlessly),” which I find less meaningful.


“Vāsuki and Takṣaka”: Two principal nāgas or mythological serpents, dwelling in the subterranean city Bhogavatī. The only other reference to this incident that I have discovered in the Rām (or elsewhere in the Rām tradition, for that matter) is 6.7.8.


“had gone to Mount Kailāsa” kailāsaṃ parvataṃ gatvā: Both the poem and the associated traditions are confused about the encounter between Rāvaṇa and his brother Kubera (Vaiśravaṇa). Whereas according to 6.7.3ff. (so in 7.14-15), Kubera is clearly defeated while on Mount Kailāsa, according to 46.5 below, it seems, Kubera is defeated in Laṅkā and driven off to the mountain (thus in the Rāmopākhyāna, MBh 3.259.32-33, Rāvaṇa defeats Kubera and ousts him from Laṅkā, though in this version Kubera takes up residence on Mount Gandhamādana).

“the man-borne Kubera” naravāhanam: This comes to be the normal ornamental epithet of the god. Although it is applied, in some epic texts, prior to Kubera’s loss of his aerial chariot (see for example MBh 3.259.3; the author of 3.221.5 curiously finds no contradiction in having Naravāhana ride the Puṣpaka), here and in 46.5, which may be the first occurrences of the term in Sanskrit literature, it seems to have a more immediate narrative relevance (that is, “he who had nothing but men to convey him,” after Rāvaṇa expropriated the chariot), as the epexegetical verse 46.6 demonstrates.


“would destroy” vināśayati: Most of the NR reads the past tense here. The incident is recounted in7.13.8ff.


“powers” paraṃtapau: A strange epithet to apply to the sun and the moon, too strange for us to accept the easy solution offered by the NR (and G2, M2), which reads the singular (modifying Rāvaṇa). Note that in 62.10 the sun and moon are called mahābalau, “powerful.”


“in the great forest” mahāvane: Identified only as the “ashram of Gokarṇa” (7.9.37, so also in an NR insertion below, 591*.1); according to the Rāmopākhyāna a Śaivite pilgrimage site and the residence of Mārīca (cf. MBh 3.261.54-55). Rāvaṇa’s austerities are described in Uttarakāṇḍa 10.


The logical relationship of the boon (granted by Brahmā) mentioned in this and the austerities in the former is left implicit, perhaps as self-evident. In 7.10.17 the list of adversaries in battle with whom Rāvaṇa would be invulnerable is given as: Suparṇa, nāgas, yakṣas [so read in the present verse, for gandharvas, by the NR], daityas, dānavas, rākṣasas. “As for all other creatures,” he says, “men and the like, I do not care a straw” (7.10.18, see further, Introduction, Chapter 4b); “Rāvaṇa neglected to include men, for he considered them only as food,” Cs. The NR adds that Brahmā granted him the ability to go anywhere in a moment, and to take on any form at will [though most rākṣasas possess this power by nature], and “teeth white as the moon and bright as the sun” (591*).


“at the seats of the oblation” havirdhāneṣu: That is, in the sacred enclosures where the rites were performed (“the enclosures where the soma is pressed,” Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct; Cg [so Ck, or possibly this is misprinted in Venkatanathacharya 1965, p. 230] appears to have abhiṣutam, “pressed,” for abhiṣṭutam, “consecrated”).


“sacrifices at their climax” āptayajña-: According to the commentators, when the rites reached the point at which the sacrificial stipends are given to the priests (Ct)., Cg, Ck, Ct).

“Rāvaṇa, ‘he who makes all creatures wail’” rāvaṇaṃ sarvabhūtānām: The standard (folk) etymology of the name (so Ct, Cs); a fuller explanation along the same lines is given in the Uttarakāṇḍa, though the account there is somewhat confused: When Rāvaṇa lifts up Mount Kailāsa, Śiva presses down on the mountain with his foot, causing the rākṣasa to wail; the god then bestows upon him the name Rāvaṇa, though he explains that it is because “the three worlds were made to wail, overcome with terror” [presumably by Rāvaṇa’s own roar] (7.16.21-27). According to the literature examined by Mayrhofer (1956-1980, vol. 3, pp. 55-56), the word originally was “perhaps a pre-Aryan bird name.”


“Paulastyas”: Descendants of Pulastya, a son of Brahmā, the father of Viśravas, the grandfather of Rāvaṇa, and eponymous ancestor of all rākṣasas and yakṣas.


“lived free from fear … dreadful story” sudāruṇaṃ vākyam abhītacāriṇī: Thus the commentators seem generally to understand; Cg calls the verse a recapitulation of what has already been told. But it is possible the line refers ahead, “She fearlessly spoke the harsh words,” that is, her criticism of Rāvaṇa in the next sarga (thus Ck).

Sarga 31


“cremation fire” śmaśānāgnim: The simile is curious, but none of the commentators remarks on it, which suggests they felt it had only a general application. Or are we to understand that such a king destroys his subjects’ lives through, for example, excessive taxation?


“grants no audience, or makes no use of spies” ayuktacāraṃ durdarśam: So essentially the majority of the commentators. With regard to the second compound, however (used in a quite different sense in 2.35.19), Cr may well be right: “(Because he makes no use of spies his ‘vision is bad,’ that is) he is unable to see what is taking place far away” (and therefore is “not his own master”?). The need for a king to employ spies will be mentioned frequently in the book (see below, verses 7ff., 21; 35.3), and forms an almost obsessive theme in the Rājadharma section of the MBh (for example, 12.69.6ff.).

Cg attempts to construe the qualifications with the simile as well: the mud at the riverside is ayuktacāra-, “through which it is unwise to move,” and asvādhīna-, “not dependent on [not obedient to the will of] the creature moving through it.”


“staunchly” ātmavadbhiḥ: In accordance with Cg’s gloss, “‘striving,’ that is, with all their attention given to counteracting Rāvaṇa.”


“well informed” sarvajñaḥ: See 2.60.13 note; Cm, Ck, Ct explain, “knowing what is occurring in his own and in his enemies’ realms.”

“knowing what must be done” kṛtajñaḥ: Not “grateful”; see notes on 14.27 above and 2.1.20.

“acting in keeping with righteousness” dharmaśīlaḥ: There is obviously little dramatic propriety in putting such sentiments in the mouth of Śūrpaṇakhā. Here, as often, verisimilitude is sacrificed to the didactic and homiletic demands of the genre.


“who misjudges his enemy” parāvamantā: So Cg, Ck, Cr; Ct suggests, “‘who only scorns his enemy,’ that is, but gives no thought to destroying them.” Or, “who shows respect for his enemy.”

“addicted” saṃgataḥ: The reading of the crit. ed. seems to be unattested elsewhere in the sense required; an attractive variant is saṃgavān of NE and S manuscripts.

Sarga 32


“from where he sat among his ministers” amātyamadhye: Perhaps to enhance the sense of Rāvaṇa’s reckless autocracy, the Rāmopākhyāna has Rāvaṇa dismiss all his advisers and question Śūrpaṇakhā in private (MBh 3.261.47).


“Triśiras”: A slight inconsistency: Rāvaṇa has not yet been told that Triśiras is dead (cf. 31.11).


She never saw these actions of Rāma’s because they were executed with extreme speed (Cg).


“of equal prowess and virtue” guṇataḥ tulyavikramaḥ: Literally, “of equal prowess [and equal] with respect to virtues,” an awkward construction that part of the NR sought to simplify (reading guṇavān).


“a veritable second self” prāṇo bahiścaraḥ: Literally, “life breath external (to him).”


“I all but brought her back” ānetum udyatāham: The SR tries to clarify this by adding, “but I was disfigured by that cruel Lakṣmaṇa” (613*). “Śūrpaṇakhā lies here,” says Ck (Ct), “in order to ingratiate herself with Rāvaṇa” (and from embarrassment, according to Cr [lest she have to admit her unseemly behavior]). The NR offers a substitute verse in place of the SR reading accepted by the crit. ed.:

Her hips are broad, the corners of her eyes are rosy as a lotus. Even my heart, as I looked at her, was violently disturbed. (612*)

(See 2.3.12 note for a comparable verse.)


Apparently Rāvaṇa is supposed to approve of the advice she gives in verse 20, and to do what she says in verse 21. But the lines are elliptical, and the SR attempts to clarify by adding hereafter 618* (which I translate in the version of Cg, in part supported by NW manuscripts; see the variants on verse 23d): “Recognizing their impotence, steal away the woman by force to be your wife.”


“act” kṛtyaṃ pratipattum: Literally, “resolve, decide on action,” so Cr; compare the sense of pratipatti- in 2.19.14 and 20.10.

Sarga 33


“turned his thoughts” buddhyā jagāma: Thus I read, with several S and NE manuscripts, for the crit. ed.’s (and commentators’) buddhvā. Rāvaṇa does not go anywhere physically until verse 3; the commentators are forced to understand either “‘went’ namely, to the inner chamber” (Cm), or “to Mārīca’s ashram” (Ck, Ct, Cr).


“went secretly” gatvā pracchannam: Cg speculates on the possible significance of the phrase: “He goes thus lest, if he should proceed openly, Mandodarī and others [kindly rākṣasas] might prevent him [so Cm, Ct]; or because it was a shameful thing to renounce manliness [an open fight with Rāma] and resort to the ways of a thief [cf. the charge of Jaṭāyus, 49.24]; or again, in the sense that he decided on this course of action by himself, after dismissing his companions (see verse 1), who thus had no opportunity for considering the plan; compare the view expressed later by Kumbhakarṇa and others, that it is difficult to remedy something undertaken without consultation with one’s ministers” (cf. 6. App. I, No. 3.196ff.; GPP 6.12.27ff.).


This chariot cannot be the Puṣpakavimāna, the aerial chariot expropriated from Kubera (see above, 30.14, 46.6), for this one will be left broken in Janasthāna (49.14, 60.32), and the Puṣpaka will be found still in Laṅkā (53.29-30; in 6.109.9ff., Rāma and Sītā ride back to Ayodhyā upon it). Yet the later Rāmāyaṇa tradition occasionally made the erroneous identification (cf. GPP 6.126.29 [crit. ed. Book Six 3518*], NaraP 49.56ff., and Raghavan 1973, p. 61). See also 46.6 note.


This verse is suspect, for it separates verses 8 and 10, thereby undermining the force of the simile: the dark cloud in the sky with its lightning and white cranes corresponding to Rāvaṇa on his chariot, with golden jewelry and yellowish cat’s-eye beryl, and the white paraphernalia of royalty (thus too Cm, Cg, Ck, except that they coordinate the cranes with the ornamented chariot, which strikes me as wrong, an impression Ct, Cr confirm). If the present verse is an interpolation (virtually the entire NE version omits it), it may be a consequence of the same kind of numerological interest that motivated the insertion noted on 45.27 below.


ājas: “Sons of the Unborn, that is, Brahmā,” Cm, Ct, Cr, Cs; “sons of Brahmā not born from a womb,” Ck; “not born from human wombs,” Cg (reading ajaiḥ).

vaikhānasas”: See 5.2-5 note.

māṣas”: “Born in the Māṣa lineage,” Cg; “a proper name,” Cm, Ct, Cr, Cs (cf. verse 30 note below).

vālakhilyas, and marīcipas”: See 5.2-5 note.


“sports of lovemaking” krīḍārati-: By paranipāta for ratikrīḍā-.


“cormorants” plava-: For the identification, see Dave 1985, p. 299.

“carpets of cat’s-eye beryl” vaidūryaprastaram: Uncertain; the concrete use of prastara- in verse 24 below favors the explanation of Cm, Cg (“on which there were rocks of beryl”).


“They belonged to those who had conquered higher worlds” jitalokānām: As in 2.58.40-42.


“(sandalwood … ) roots juicy with resin” niryāsarasamūlānāṃ (candanānām): I take the compound thus adjectivally, with Ct, Cr, though normally it is the wood, not the roots, of the sandalwood tree from which the precious oils are extracted. The alternatives are not appealing: Cg (understanding the compound as a tatpuruṣa) remarks, “From the roots of the plants called mūla [e.g., long-pepper plants?] comes the exudation of asafoetida”; Ck. “trees, the guggada and the like, which are a source of fragrant gum resins.”

“carpets … mounds” prastaram … -nicayam: I understand these items as jātyekavacanam.

“coral” pravāla-: See note on 2.13.25.


Cg observes here, “This long description of the coastline is meant to suggest that, after taking the trouble to come so far, Rāvaṇa is all the more deter-mined not to be dissuaded in his exhortation of Mārīca.”


“there” tatra: The MBh (1.25.27) locates the tree at a place called Alambatīrtha, otherwise unknown.


The legend of Garuḍa is more fully recounted in MBh 1.24ff. Again Cg speculates on its narrative function: “The poet here is mocking Rāvaṇa, showing how foolish he is to oppose Rāma [that is, Viṣṇu], when even His mount [Garuḍa] has such illimitable power.” This passage (like that recounting the appearance of Garuḍa in 6.40.33ff.) has full manuscript support, and if we are unwilling to accept the traditional explanation it becomes hard indeed to account for this seemingly gratuitous digression.


“leafy … Suparṇa” suparṇaḥ … parṇabahulām: For the rhetorical figure see 19.23 note.


māṣas”: “Born in the lineage Pūtimāṣa; or, being the size of a bean [māṣa],” Cm.

ajas”: The spelling (contrast above, verse 15) has preponderant manuscript support.

dhūmras”: Drinkers of smoke, according to Cm, Cg.

The NR adds that, worn out from their ascetic practices the seers, many thousands of them, were hanging from the branch (634*).


“caught … in a single claw” ādāya … ekapādena: I believe Cm, Cg, Cr are correct to construe these items together (the alternative, ekapādena … bhakṣayitvā, makes little sense).

“used the branch to lay waste” hatvā śākhayā: Ck, Ct, Cr imply that Garuḍa slays the Niṣādas merely by dropping the branch upon them (in MBh 1.26.17ff., the bird lets the branch fall on an uninhabited mountain in the north). According to Cg, Garuḍa eats the Niṣādas, and this is the case in the MBh version as well (cf. 1.25.9, though here he eats them prior to eating the elephants and the tortoise).

“He had freed the great sages” mokṣayitvā mahāmunīn: How the sages were oppressed by the Niṣādas (as the verse implies, so Cg; Cm, Ck, Ct, “‘he freed them,’ that is, from confinement”) we do not know. Venkatanathacarya (1965, p. 246 note) suggests that the bird “frees” the sages merely from the branch, that is, saved them from death by falling (grammatically sound and in harmony with the MBh version, 1.26.14).


“the iron latticework” ayojālāni: The treasure house is constructed so as to prevent anyone from entering into the area containing the soma. In the MBh the stronghold is described as follows: “In front of the drink of immortality Garuḍa saw a wheel made of iron. It had keen blades and a sharp rim, and incessantly it twirled … a lethal edge to dismember any who sought to steal the drink” (1.29.2).

Hereafter D3 adds, “He liberated his mother from slavery …” (640*; cf. MBh 1.30.16).


“Subhadra”: On the naming of sacred trees, which function as shrines, compare 2.49.4 and note, 62.12; in the MBh the tree appears to be called Rohiṇapādapa (1.25.31; 337*).


“who wore black hides” kṛṣṇājinadharam: “This describes the marks betokening worldly indifference on the part of Mārīca, because he is now a devotee of Rāma’s,” Cg. In the MBh (3.261.55) Mārīca is called a “former adviser” of Rāvaṇa’s, one who had become an ascetic in fear of Rāma.

Sarga 34


“who was tried and tested” labdhalakṣāḥ: Literally, “who had won the prize” or “hit the mark” (see Nīlakaṇṭha on MBh 4.61.46 vulg., “who does not swerve from the target”; Medhātithi on ManuSm 7.54, “successful in what they undertake”; Nīlakaṇṭha on MBh 8.10.5 vulg., “gaining victory”. Differently Cm, Ct, Cr, “‘who had found an opportunity,’ that is, who were filled with zeal for battle.”


“without one harsh word” anuktvā paruṣaṃ kiṃcit: See above, 28.1 note.


These are, in large measure, the terms by which the poet has described Rāvaṇa himself (30.20). Perhaps thinking that Mārīca is now a “follower of righteousness,” Rāvaṇa hopes to enlist his aid by representing his attack on Rāma as just retribution against a criminal.


“in an act of brute force” sattvam āśritya kevalam: Uncertain; the Mylapore editors felt the wording unable to bear this sense, the one apparently required, and proposed emendation (‘sattvam, “ignominious conduct”). Implausibly the medieval commentators, “‘trusting merely in his strength,’ that is, and not in righteousness,” Cg, Ck, Ct.


The NR adds herein, “(Sītā … ) who is like Śrī without her lotus” (654*).


“and my brothers” bhrātṛbhiś ca: “The surviving ones, that is, Kumbhakarṇa and the others,” Cg, Ck, Ct.


“in great battles” mahāhave: I take this reading (it is the NR’s, cf. 663*) to be more probable than that accepted by the crit. ed., mahāvane. The corruption is a common one (see note on 2.90.25).

Sarga 35


“the wise (Mārīca)” mahāprājño (mārīcaḥ): The NR reads instead, “wild-eyed and numb [with fear]” (664*).


The sentiment is repeated in 6.10.16 and explicitly taken up for comment by Kauṭilya in ArthŚā 5.4.12.


“I fear” api: Cg explains, “api has the sense of supposition, and would be accompanied by a change in tone of voice.” This could instead be an optative of wish, “Oh that”; see 2.82.26 note (and cf. 2.66.5 and 43.31 below).


“born to take your life” te jīvitāntāya notpannā: No doubt passages like this (cf. also 6.82.29-36 and others that testify to the divine plan undergirding the narrative, discussed in the introduction, Chapter 4c) encouraged the development of the story of Vedavatī recounted in Uttarakāṇḍa 17 (especially verses 22ff., and cf. 47.15-16 below and note). In some Jain and other Rāmāyaṇas we find the same motif of the predestined destruction of Rāvaṇa by Sītā, who is often represented as his daughter.


“groundless” na śrutam: The strong variant duḥśrutam, attested widely in the NR and SR, points to a comparable interpretation, “lies, infamous lies.” Ct reads naivam in pāda d, understanding pāda c as, “(Rāma) has never even heard about lying [let alone speaks lies]. (You ought not to speak) thus” (not dissimilarly Cr). Possibly we should read naśrutam, though such compounds are rare in the poem. (Contrary to the report of the crit. ed., Ck reads na śrutam.)


“His might it is” svena tejasā: My interpretation finds some support in Ck, Ct. Cm, Cg, however, construe the possessive adjective a reflexive to vaidehīm, “‘(guarded) by her own might,’ that is, by the power conferred by her marital fidelity.” Despite the suggestive parallel in 6.106.15, this explanation makes little sense here. The verse is located in a series of ślokas praising the might of Rāma, with Mārīca everywhere suggesting — to his own doom, as it turns out — that Rāvaṇa cannot steal Sītā with Rāma ; his own might protects her (not someone else’s, that of an army, for example). And indeed, as events show, Vaidehī’s “might” proves ineffectual in stopping the demon.


“whose bow and sword are kindling” cāpakhaḍgendhanam: To secure a somewhat higher degree of intelligibility for the figure Cm offers the interpretation, “‘[to whom] those holding bows and swords’ [by 5.2.127], that is, his enemies, [‘are kindling’],” his enemies being the objects that are burned; so Ct, though he analyzes, “those struck by his bow and arrows” (Cr, “‘the bows,’ namely, of his enemies”).


“fiery (tongues)” -arciṣam: Attractive variants are “fangs” in NW manuscripts; “tongues” in S and NE (680*) manuscripts.


“Janaka’s daughter belongs to one of immeasurable might” aprameyaṃ hi tattejaḥ yasya sā janakātmajā: In conformity with his theology, Cg rearranges the emphasis here (“His might cannot be measured, to whom Janaka’s daughter belongs”), commenting, “This expresses the superiority Rāma derives from his relationship with Sītā; compare the statement, ‘God possesses divinity by reason of Śraddhā’ [Faith personified as a female entity]” (the quotation is from TaiBr


“hard-won kingship” rājyaṃ caiva sudurlabham: Comparing the use of durlabhām in 29.7 above, I understand the adjective as a simple qualification, rather than as a predicate with the whole line (“your life and all your happiness and your kingship will [then] be hard to get,” so Cm, Ck).

The story of Rāvaṇa’s usurpation of the kingship from his elder brother Kubera (see 30.14 above and note, 46.4-5 below) is narrated in detail in Uttarakāṇḍa 11.


The NR hereafter adds that Rāvaṇa should also consult “Trijaṭā, a great ascetic, a perfected being, free from all faults” (692*), the one female rākṣasa who will comfort Sītā during her captivity (Sundarakāṇḍa 25).


“what is best” kṣamam: Here as elsewhere (cf. 38.1) the word can be hard to translate, since it connotes both practicability and rectitude (so basically Cg).

Sarga 36


“Daṇḍaka wilderness” daṇḍakāraṇyam: In the Bālakāṇḍa (28-29) the site of Rāma’s first encounter with Mārīca is not identified as the Daṇḍaka forest.

After this verse some N manuscripts add a passage recounting how Mārīca attacked the sages of Viśvāmitra’s ashram, who refrained from avenging themselves on him lest they thereby diminish their store of ascetic power (697*; cf. above 9.13ff.).


“at the time of the lunar sacrifice” parvakāle: See note on 2.102.19; Ck, Ct, “at the time of sacrifice”; Cg, “at the time of the sacrificial extraction of the soma.”


“a mere twelve years old” bālo dvādaśavarṣo ‘yam: So I read with the SR (endorsed by Ñ1), for the crit. ed.’s “still short of sixteen.” See the arguments adduced in the note on 2.17.26. The early commentators were sensitive to the (apparent) contradiction with 1.19.2, Cv asserting (erroneously), “Mārīca diminishes Rāma’s age in order to frighten Rāvaṇa; in actual fact he was at that time just under sixteen” (so Crā, repeated by Cg).


“clad only in a loincloth” ekavastradharaḥ: “Rāma wore only the one garment because he was observing the vow of brahmacarya [religious studentship and thus celibacy],” Cm, Cg, Ct.


“like the newly risen crescent moon” bālacandra ivoditaḥ: Alternatively read ‘bāla- (“full moon”; cf. 2.54.10 note).

Although the simile refers merely to Rāma’s youth and has no direct narrative function, Cg tries to find one: “By the simile of the rising moon we are to understand Rāma’s being prepared to counteract hostile adversaries” (because the light of the moon hinders thieves; Ctś and the ṭīkā on Cm suggest that although ablaze with might, Rāma had a kindly aspect, like the newly risen moon). Cg further remarks, “Rāma’s physical beauty is described by Mārīca because, enemy though he was, he found him very handsome.”


“Powerful in my possession of a boon” balī dattavaraḥ: What boon Mārīca possessed is unknown; Ck (like Ct) is merely guessing when he says, “a boon given by Brahmā that he could be slain neither by gods nor by asuras.”


“(the ocean,) a hundred leagues away” (samudre) śatayojane: Less likely, with Ct, “‘(into the ocean) to a distance of a hundred leagues,’ that is, from the shore.”


“whose care it is to master the sports of lovemaking” krīḍāratividhijñānām: See 33.16 for the paranipāta. The libidinal appetites of the rākṣasas are frequently stressed in the poem — and figure significantly in this particular book. See the Introduction, Chapter 6.


“perish … like fish in a pool of snakes” vinaśyanti matsyā nāgahrade yathā: “The fish who live with the snakes perish when someone [Cm, “Garuḍa”; Ck, “a fisherman sent in by a king who wishes to bathe there”] takes steps to destroy the latter,” Cg.


“if their wives have not been carried off” hṛtadārān: The commentators oddly gloss, “those who have abandoned their wives” (Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct).

Sarga 37


“next” yad uttaram: Unacceptably the commentators, “[ … what happened, a thing] ‘beyond,’ that is. beyond this world, achievable by no one but him,” Cg, Ck, Ct, Cr.


“human flesh” māṃsa-: Literally, simply “flesh.” The NR (supported by several S manuscripts) makes the reference clear, “feeding on the flesh of seers.” See verse 6.


“the life of an ascetic” tāpasaṃ dharmam: I take the first word as an adjective, with Ct.

“an ascetic, given to rigorous fasting” tāpasaṃ niyatāhāram: pādas cd of verse 8 construe with rāmam in verse 7.


“felt contempt for” paribhūya: Thus also in 41.39, 42 (so Cr). As Cg rightly notes, Mārīca assumes that, like all ascetics, Rāma would be devoted to non-violence (as are those mentioned in 1.20 above).


“strong jointed” saṃnataparvanaḥ: Metri causa for saṃnataparvānah; a similar case is 60.33 below; see note there.


“escaped” muktaḥ: “Only because Rāma’s arrows do not pursue those who turn and flee,” Cg, Cr.


“But now” hi: See note on 8.28 above for the adversative force in this particle.

Cg observes that when engrossed in thoughts of Rāma, whether out of love or fear, one can come visibly to behold Him (sākṣātkāra-). He cites two verses: “You depart not from the heart; in every direction are You seen” [cf. MahāN 3.26]; “When Rāma ruled the kingdom, the whole world became just Rāma” [cf. MBh 2. App., I.21.574, part of a gāthā sung by “those who know the ancient legends,” cf. 568-81]. Fear being a comparatively more intense emotion, says Cg, the frightened man’s vision of Rāma will accordingly be more intense.


“an R” rakāra-: Very rarely is this word used to refer to the phoneme /r/. The normal word, from the time of the early grammarians at least, has been repha (cf. 3.3.108 vart. 4).

“roads”: The crit. ed. actually reads rathāḥ, “chariots,” for which no appropriate English equivalent could be found. But why indeed “chariots” when evidently what is wanted is a word, like “riches,” connoting pleasure. This is provided by the NE and NW versions, which both support some variant signifying “women” (ramaṇyaḥ and rāmāḥ, respectively). An air of authenticity, however, caused by its very banality, lingers with the SR reading, which makes one hesitate to alter the text.


“my kinsman’s good” bandhuhita-: Or, “my kinsmen’s good.”

Sarga 38


“ripe to die” martukāmaḥ: This compound, like the desiderative form of the verb mṛ (cf. 51.16 and note), can signify immediate futurity as well as desire (exactly which depends on the context). When a man is on the point of death, at least according to the convention of Sanskrit literature, his mind fails him and he cannot tell what will or will not benefit him (cf. 39.20 below, and 2.98.51 and note).


“(dissuade me from) doing battle” (-vākyaṃ … mām … bhettuṃ … ) samyuge: Literally, “with respect to battle,” though the locative is somewhat awkward, and later Rāvaṇa will say that by this plan he will avoid battle with Rāma altogether (verse 19). Cg accordingly interprets: to dissuade him from abducting Sītā (and instead persuading him) to battle with Rāma. “Rāvaṇa considers Rāma unworthy to fight for three reasons: because he is ‘wicked; a ‘fool,’ and a ‘man’; the only proper recompense for his outrages is the abduction of his wife.” Cg presumably has 37.19 in mind here, though that verse hardly suggests that Mārīca is persuading Rāvaṇa to fight rather than kidnap Sītā. (Ct, “Rāma is said to be ‘wicked’ because he slew a woman, Tāṭakā,” see Bālakāṇḍa 25).

I agree with Ct (so Cg) in assessing verse 5 as corroboration of Rāma’s foolishness (and consequently I de-emphasize its correlation with verse 6, against Cr).

“on orders of a mere woman” strīvākyaṃ prākṛtam: I explain the phrase as a kind of hypallage, for prākṛtastrī-; cf. 2.19.17.


More literally, “(five different forms): of Fire, Indra, [Soma, that is,] the Moon [see note on 2.85.17], Yama, and Varuṇa, the hotness, boldness, mildness, punishment, and graciousness” (for the figure of speech, technically yathāsaṃkhya, see note on 2.20.28). The politico-theological doctrine that the earthly king consists of essential parts of the lokapālas or “world protectors” is widespread (cf. note on 2.104.16, and 7. App. I, No. 12; see also Introduction, Chapter 4d).


“when I am paying a visit” abhyāgataṃ mām: The verb connotes the status of a guest, as Ct also perceives, and therefore Rāvaṇa is all the more to be honored.


The SR inserts after this verse:

When Kākutstha has departed, go further away and call out like this, ‘Oh Sītā! Oh Lakṣmaṇa!’ imitating Rāma’s voice. When he hears this, at Sītā’s urging Saumitri too in confusion will hurry off following Rāma’s tracks, out of affection. (749*)


“as … Indra … Śacī”: The story is unknown to me, and I suspect to the commentators, too, who are silent (the NE recension replaces the reference with “as Suparṇa [Viṣṇu’s eagle] [might abduct] a she-serpent”). Perhaps a sort of “contrary-to-fact simile” (viṣamā upamā), since Śacī is Indra’s wife.


NE manuscripts interpolate after this verse some lines in which Rāvaṇa asserts that neither Rāma nor any other mortal could pursue him (and Mārīca) to where he will take Vaidehī (750*).


“A safe journey to you” gaccha … śivaṃ mārgam: The standard idiom for “bon voyage”; the commentators implausibly see a pun: “(May you assume) a lovely deer form” (taddhita derivative from mṛga-).


“He who stands in opposition to a king is forever barred from happiness” rājño hi pratikūlastho na jātu sukham edhate: Not a personal conviction of Rāvaṇa’s but a tenet frequently repeated in the epics; for one particularly close parallel, see MBh 12.68.49.


“there is a chance you will lose your life” jīvitasaṃśayas te: “That is, he might die or he might survive, as on the occasion of his two previous encounters with Rāma,” Ck, Ct.

Sarga 39


“royal” rājavad: Translated thus following Cv, Crā, Cm, Cg (second interpretation; Ck reads rājñā; Cr, “‘(he made this … reply)’ like a king”). For a comparable problem brought on by this word, see 2.85.35 and note.

“perverse” pratikūlam: Ct understands the “perversity” to refer, not to the order to deceive Rāma, but to Rāvaṇa’s threat to kill Mārīca unless he obeys (Ck takes the word adverbially with the main clause, remarking that Mārīca, now certain to die whether he agrees or refuses, speaks fearlessly).


The sense connection among these verses is, depending on one’s viewpoint, very complex or very weak. This problem occasionally arises in the epics when proverbial verses (such as here, verse 10, which appears also in MBh 12.68.7 vulg., cf. also Bhatt 1963, p. 406) are strung together. I understand it thus: All a minister’s life goals are attained by favor of the king (cf. 2.45.5); but even if he should win the king’s approval it proves meaningless if the king himself is not virtuous; whereas if he is actually evil, his subjects suffer calamitously (verses 8-9; cf. following note); the king is thus the source of righteousness and must therefore be protected (by good counsel] (verse 10); only a good king can preserve the kingship (verse 11); bad ministers destroy the kingship (the king) and themselves (verse 12), for an innocent man can suffer from the evil deeds of others (verse 13, cf. 38.22); an evil king only appears to protect his subjects — in fact, he destroys them, as Rāvaṇa is destroying his own (verses 14-15).


“should their master go astray” viparyaye: This cannot, I think, have its more usual epic sense (“that failing,” “in the absence of that,” as, for example, in MBh 12.65.3), because the only referent would then be the king’s “grace” in the previous verse (with which the second half of the present verse cannot intelligibly construe). Thus, though somewhat hesitantly, I follow Cg in assuming an abbreviated expression (for guṇaviparyaye, “[should there be] a reversal in his virtue”). (It is going too far, however, to gloss -prasādāt in verse 8 [“grace,” so rightly Cm, Cr there] as “virtue,” a meaning that it cannot bear, in order to secure a tighter construction between the two halves of verse 9.)


“he who is lord of men must be protected” rakṣitavyo narādhipaḥ: And the only way truly to protect him is by good counsel (verses 11-12).


“the brutal man” tīkṣṇena: That is, the adviser who counsels brutal measures.


“with him” tena: Strictly, “with it,” “the king’s position,” “the kingship” (verse 11), with which the upamāna of the simile, the chariot, would more properly construe.


“unfathomable” kākatālīyam: I defer here to the opinion of Cv, who, citing one Bhāguri, defines the word as meaning “something unexpected, signifying the same thing as ‘a white crow’” (cf. also KāśiVṛ 5.3.106, “something unexpected and startling” [cited by Jacob 1907, p. 17]). Usually, however, this word relates to the nyāya (maxim) to which it literally refers, the “crow and the palm fruit,” that is, to the coincidental fall of the fruit on the head of a crow the moment it lands on the tree (but without the crow’s actually causing it to fall; essentially the same thing as post hoc, non propter hoc; see Nīlakaṇṭha on MBh 12.177.11, MBh 5.3.106, Mallinātha on Kirātā 3.31, MālaMā 84.7). But this common sense cannot, I think, fit here, because whether verse 16 goes with verse 15 or verse 17, Rāvaṇa has direct, not fortuitous, responsibility.


“I at least will find fulfillment in dying at the hand of my enemy” anena kṛtakṛtyo ‘smi mriye yad ariṇā hataḥ: It is not clear what the poet means. The distinction, if one is actually being drawn, would seem to be between Mārīca’s mode of dying and Rāvaṇa’s (though so far as we know, and as Mārīca here affirms, both of them are sure to be slain by Rāma in battle), not between Mārīca’s dying at the hand of Rāma or at the hand of Rāvaṇa, which appears to be the point of Ct’s comment: “Death in battle at the hand of the enemy gives heaven as its reward; in comparison with this, death at the hand of a king [here, presumably, Rāvaṇa] is an evil death, and śāstra declares that one who so dies is denied the purification water and other rites … . Mārīca’s mind, having been purified by asceticism and yoga, has acquired this knowledge [otherwise unavailable to rākṣasas].” The other commentators are of little help, interpreting for the most part according to apparently extraneous theological considerations, as Cm, Cg: “Mārīca has had a vision of Rāma’s true, unparalleled greatness by his continually calling to mind Rāma’s superhuman deeds, from his protecting Viśvāmitra’s sacrifice to his slaying of Khara; and determining that Rāma is the Primal Being, he understands that death at his hand would fulfill the highest human goal. Thus is it formulated in the Narasiṃhapurāṇa: ‘Death must be met at the hands of Rāma or Rāvaṇa; since in either case one must die, better at the hand of Rāma than of Rāvaṇa.’” (I do not find this verse in NaraP, though in 49.64 of that text Mārīca is reported as saying to Rāvaṇa, “Better to die at Rāma’s hands than at yours”; some N manuscripts interpolate the verse cited by Cm, Cg in 762*.) Ck argues against the “stupid piety” of this theological interpretation by asking how Mārīca knows that Rāma is the Supreme Soul, and that death at his hand would be an act of grace to him (an objection Cg has anticipated, see above); and if he does know, why he tries to avoid experiencing it (an objection not anticipated by Cg). It may be that Mārīca means nothing more than that death at the hands of a great man is in itself something of a blessing (see 40.3 note below), and is thinking principally about himself, without intending to make any differentiation.


“you are doomed” naiva tvam asi: See 6.92.11 for corroboration of this pregnant sense of the verb.


“on the point of death” paretakalpāḥ: The reading here is doubtful. The verse recurs in 6.10.21, where the majority of N and S manuscripts, along with Crā and Cm, read parītakālāḥ (“[whose] time [of death] is at hand” [so the commentators there]), the reading offered here by NW manuscripts. Cf. 49.26 note below.

Sarga 40


Between sargas 39 and 40 the NR inserts a long (and dull) passage (App. I, No. 11), in which Mārīca tries further to dissuade Rāvaṇa, though finally consenting to assist (line 43); Rāvaṇa attempts to encourage him by minimizing Rāma’s powers and glorifying his own (recounting his great deeds, including his lifting of Śiva’s mountain [see 7.16], lines 72-73), and by asserting the inaccessibility of his island kingdom.


“The instant” ca … ca: The conjunctions express the simultaneity of the two actions, Rāma’s seeing Mārīca and killing him; the second does not indicate “and your life, too, Rāvaṇa” (as per Ck, Ct, Cr).


“But what” kiṃ tu: To be understood as interrogative and adversative, respectively; Ck’s kiṃ nu is attractive.

In the Rāmopākhyāna Mārīca decides that if one must die, it is better to die at the hand of a distinguished adversary [rather than at the hand of Rāvaṇa] (MBh 3.262.9, and above, 39.17 and note there).


The MBh version adds a nice touch here: Before his departure Mārīca performs for himself the water libation to the dead (3.262.14).


“towns … cities” pattanāni … nagarāṇi: According to Cg, the latter are provided with trees (nagas) (and therefore gardens), this distinguishing them from the former (he cites at length from the Vāstuśāstra, which, however, does not seem to corroborate his distinction); to Ck, Ct, the latter are political capitals.


“rare gems” maṇipravara-: Glossed “sapphire” by Cm, Cg, Ck (who remarks that it is poetic convention to use maṇi- only in this sense), Ct.

The commentators here and elsewhere in the sarga are oddly reluctant to believe that the deer is literally bejeweled, but that is clearly what the poet says (see verses 16, 18, 29, 32).

“pale, velvety madhūka flower” madhūkanibha-: See Ingalls 1965, p. 495.


“trees” viṭapīnām: Instead of viṭapinām, see Böhtlingk 1887, p. 215.


“plantain grove” kadalīgṛhakam: Thus Cm, Ct, Cr. I suppose this is the border of trees (perhaps a natural arbor) mentioned in verse 11, rather than “a man-made house constructed of plantain trees” (Cg. Ck). The word gṛhaka- seems not to be attested elsewhere.


“though they were close enough to touch” saṃpṛśan: Ck, Ct, Cr persuade me to treat this concessively; Cg takes it positively (“he would only touch them”).


“picking flowers, karṇikāra … flowers” karṇikārān … kusumāny apacinvantī: Probably not double accusative with the root ci (Speijer 1886, pp. 34-5), but tree names used in the sense of their flowers, perhaps by vart. on 4.3.166.

In accordance with its overall concern to establish a precise chronology for all the events in the poem (cf. 16.1 note above; the design of the poem itself gives substantial impetus to this concern; see for instance Pollock 1986, pp. 45-46), traditional exegesis seeks to determine here the exact time at which Sītā is abducted. Ct accordingly cites the evidence of the aśoka and mango flowers here (along with Rāma’s two statements later, 4.1.6 and 4.1.16, and Rāvaṇa’s threat in 54.22 coupled with 5.35.8) to show that the season is early spring.


“not meant” anarhā: Cg tries to find a reason for the qualification: “This refers to the fact that the day of the completion of her vow [to live in the wilderness] is near at hand, and is meant to explain her excessive haste to have the deer captured”; Ct more cleverly, “The phrase implies that she will soon be living in a city” (that is, Rāvaṇa’s). Perhaps it simply suggests that her fascination with the bejeweled deer betrays her ignorance of forest life.


“sparkling teeth and ruby lips” ruciradantoṣṭhī: On manuscript evidence and by reason of the feminine of the compound being applied to Sītā in 44.11, this is a more probable reading than that of the crit. ed., which applies the adjective to the deer. Such too is the reading of Cg, who supposes it to suggest her sensation of eager curiosity. More likely it is meant to call special attention to the woman’s rare beauty: the poet underscores this repeatedly in the present passage (see verses 27, 28, 29; 41.1,2), as if to remind us that other eyes are seeing her for the first time — Rāvaṇa’s.

Sarga 41


“the magic form of a deer” māyāmṛgarūpam: The crit. ed. is correct to print māyā- in compound with mṛgarūpam. Cm, Ct, Ct, Cr all read it separately (“it is his magic that has been turned into this deer form”). Perhaps they felt that the compound straddling the pāda boundary was unacceptable. Although this is rare, instances are found, for example in the next verse, ratna- (see also 2.54.10 note).

“mirage” gandharvapura-: Literally, “city of the gandharvas.”


”But even as Kākutstha was speaking thus … Sītā interrupted” evaṃ bruvāṇaṃ kākutsthaṃ prativārya … sītā: “Kākutstha” refers to Lakṣmaṇa, as Cm, Ct see, and the gerund construes with Sītā (correctly Cg, Ck, Ct, Cr; incorrect is Speijer 1886, p. 298, “Laxmana thus speaking and dissuading her”).


“yaks and antelope” camarāḥ sṛmarāḥ: See above, note on 13.23.

“powerful” mahābalāḥ: The adjective is decidedly inappropriate, but since the NR differs altogether here, it is not possible to decide among the variants (including also the probable mahābala, “my powerful [husband],” emphasizing Rāma’s ability to capture the deer; manoharāḥ, “enchanting [animals],” is a mediocre revision).


“never before … seen” na … dṛṣṭapūrvo … purā: Literally, “never before … seen previously.” Cg would eliminate the tautology by understanding “(and will not be seen) in the future [purā]”


“will be” bhavati: The verb seems to function as a future here. Possible too: “(this marvelous thing will be a source of wonder) about you,” that is, it will be a feather in Rāma’s cap to have captured so marvelous a creature alive.


“willful” kāmavṛttam: The reading is questionable, since the NR replaces it with kāmam uktaṃ mayā (cf. 789*.22, 790*.21), “Although this is a (heartless) request I make.” Cg, reading like the crit. ed., believes her horrible willfulness rests in her ordering her husband to fetch the deer (verse 9 above), for which she is now asking forgiveness (so Ck, Ct).


“all the brilliance of the morning sun, all the luster of the starry heavens” taruṇādityavarṇena nakṣatrapathavarcasā: The deer’s golden hide makes him like the newly risen sun, his silver spots like the starry sky (Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct, Cr).


“shall die” na bhaviṣyati: An idiom, as in verse 47ab below (see also 60.49, and 6.23.27, Nīlakaṇṭha on MBh 6.43.99 vulgate, and BhagGī 11.32). Rāma is declaring that he will kill the deer, something he proceeds to justify in verse 29. The commentators correctly understand the idiomatic sense of the phrase in verse 47ab, but are curiously reluctant to allow that meaning here (“[this] cannot possibly be [a deer],” Ck; “[this] cannot be alive,” Ct; “‘[this deer] will not be,’ that is, such a deer as this will be impossible [ever] to find again,” Cg).


“famous” -saṃśrave: Thus I conjecture, for the crit. ed.’s -saṃśraye. Although no manuscript reports it (at least according to the critical apparatus), it is inferable from the unanimous gloss of the commentators (tadākhya-), and would effectively parallel -uddeśe in pāda a. -saṃśraya must mean “located in,” but it is meaningless to say the forest is located in Caitraratha when Caitraratha itself is the forest.


“sapphire and crystal” masāragalvarka-: This notoriously obscure compound is, I believe, to be taken as a dvandva (note especially verse 40.13 above, “its face mottled dark and light”). See Mayrhofer 1956-1980, vol. 2, p. 604; Nīlakaṇṭha on MBh 12.46.33 vulgate takes it as a dvandva too, but consisting of three items, “emerald” (masāra-), “moonstone” (galu glossed as candrakānta-), and “sunstone” (arka). Contrast Edgerton 1953, p. 436, where the compound is “said to mean sapphire or emerald”; Cm, Cg, Cr understand it as a tatpuruṣa “a goblet of sapphire.”


The train of thought here is difficult to follow. The following may be close to the truth: Both out of necessity and in sport, kings kill animals (verse 29), so I am justified in slaying this deer; they also search the woods for riches (verse 30), but this (deer form, verse 28) could give all the wealth one ever dreamed of (verse 31); and even if neither of these two reasons were valid, my behavior is warranted by the definition of artha given in the śāstras (verse 32).

Rāma’s eagerness to go out hunting, despite Lakṣmaṇa’s sound arguments, is something for which the audience has been prepared (see note on 2.43.14, and 6.17ff. and notes above). Is it considered by the poet, in the end, to be a vice, which leads even Rāma into trouble, as it had led his father Daśaratha (see 2.57-58)? Note also that, like Daśaratha, Rāma gives in to the wishes of the woman he loves, and in so doing brings disaster upon his own head.


“here is all the wealth a man could ask for” tat sāram akhilaṃ nṛṇām: The pronoun refers to the deer, and is attracted into the neuter of the predicate. (Wrongly the commentators, “‘Therefore excellent [sāram] wealth’ — wealth amassed in accordance with the śāstra — ‘swells,’” Cm; “‘That wealth which swells,’ that wealth from the forest, is ‘excellent’ [sāram], that is, better than the wealth that comes from the [agriculture of the] countryside,” Cg, so Ck, Ct).

“just as Śukra’s coffers come to be swelled with all the wealth men dream of” manasā cintitaṃ sarvaṃ yathā śukrasya: I take my cue for translating this cryptic line from a parallel adduced by Cg from the MBh, manuṣebhyaḥ samādatte śukraś cittārjitaṃ dhanam, “Śukra takes from men all the wealth they come by in their dreams” [or “their imagination,” Arjunamiśra] (5.112.3; Nīlakaṇṭha on 5.114.3 vulg. interprets quite differently, and implausibly). The only references, however, that I can locate suggesting that Śukra has such vast wealth are here in Rām 4.50.12 (where the demon Maya is granted a boon, whereby he receives “all the wealth belonging to Uśanas” [that is, Śukra]), and in MBh 12.278.9 (where Śukra steals the wealth of Kubera).


“a man in want of something should go and get it” arthī yenārthakṛtyena saṃvrajati: The original is actually framing a definition: “(That is artha, here ‘just gain’) (with, i.e.,) to the accomplishment of which a man in want of the thing proceeds (without a second thought).” The mode of expression is obscure, and for this broad definition of artha I find no corroboration in the literature. Similarly, the place of the verse in the overall logic of the argument is difficult to determine. The commentators suppose the verse to be a reply to the objection, “Nonetheless one must never act without deliberation,” which is to say, even if the other reasons are accepted, careful consideration in this instance will show that it is unwise to hunt the deer (Cm, Cg, Ct, Cr). Rāma seems to be stressing one of two things: either, “Given the traditional understanding of artha, there is no need for further deliberation”; or, “Since I am impelled to proceed to attain this object without further reflection, it must conform to the traditional notions regarding artha.”


“goat’s” praveṇī: So Ck, Ct, though the word is, so far as I can tell, unattested in this sense (Cm, Cg, “a type of blanket”).


“the heavenly deer that roams the sky” yaś ca divyo nabhaścaraḥ: The constellation usually called Mṛgaśiras, “Deer’s Head” (three stars of the constellation Orion, according to Kirfel 1920, p. 36).


“impious” akṛtātmanā: Compare the opposition akṛtātma- and viśuddhātma- in MBh 12.205.27.


“out hunting” utthāya … mṛgayāyām: I join the two items; see the NR’s “gloss” mṛgayām gatāḥ (790*.88). The commentators understand the gerund absolutely with yena, “(who), coming forth, or, springing forth (killed),” Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct.


For the full narrative of Vātāpi, see 10.53ff. above. Interestingly the NW version (789*) omits this (to my mind irrelevant) recapitulation of the story.

“as her foal will kill a she-mule when it comes to be born” svagarbho ‘śvatarīm iva: Since mules — unless aśvatarī can mean the still-surviving wild Asiatic ass — are generally (if erroneously, cf. Rau 1980-1981, p. 188) regarded as barren by ancient Indians, it is unclear what the simile means, though Ct, Cr aver, “It is well known that only by bursting its mother’s womb is the offspring of a mule born from her” (thus Arjunamiśra and Nīlakaṇṭha on MBh 12.138.30, where the same simile occurs). In the ṢaḍviBr 6.7.2 (cited by Rau) a mule’s giving birth is considered a prodigy. Another (though almost equally puzzling) clue to the meaning of the topos may be contained in the statement in the TaiS that “Agni burns the birthplace” of the mule’s foal ( Cg, Ck, Ct mention other commentators who gloss the word aśvatarī as “crab” (or, scorpion), but I find no corroboration of this.


“the greatest sage in the world” loke … mahāmunim: Construing the two words together, though it is awkward, seems to be indicated by verse 42c below. Two interesting variants; caran (for cirāt), “while wandering (through the world)”; and lobhāt (for loke; sic vulgate), “(But finally … ) through his greed (he met up … )” (that is, his greed finally led to his confrontation with Agastya). NE manuscripts eliminate the problem altogether, reading cirāt kālād, “after a long time” (790*.92).


“to be digested” jarāṃ gataḥ: Thus Cg, Ct, Cr. The sense of the substantive (which normally means “old age”; the semantic bridge may be supplied by such idioms as kālaḥ pacati bhūtāni [MBh 17.1.3], “Time cooks creatures,” i.e., digests them with its digestive “fire”) is that of the verbal root jṝ from which it is derived; the usage is rare outside of medical texts, though it occurs also in 45.43 below.


“treats with scorn” atimanyeta: A vedic locution (cf. PW, s.v.), unattested in the epics (for which ava + man is substituted, as in 790*.98, the NE version). The commentators incorrectly gloss “transgress against” (Cm, Cg, Ct, Cr).


“our first responsibility” yat kṛtyam: Literally, “What(ever) we have to do”; the phrase is abbreviated from yat kiṃcit kṛtyam (see 2.20.26 and note).


“I intend to go” yāvad gacchāmi: Particularly with the first person singular yāvat can (as in verse 48) connote intention (see PW, s.v. 2c); the editor of the crit. ed. evidently mistook its function and consequently departed from the vulgate’s correct articulation of lines 44cd-47ab (paśya in verse 46cd does not in itself mean, and cannot in the present context mean, “keep an eye on” [thus, however, Cr]; Cm suggests the difficult construction of joining 46ab with 44cd, with tāvat understood).


“with Sītā” sītayā: The preposition is omitted, as often (cf. verse 49 be-low), and as Ct perceives. The other commentators erroneously take the instrumental as hetau (“because of, on behalf of, Sītā”).

After this verse (not after verse 44cd as per the crit. ed.), the NE recension adds, “You are not to budge until I return. Rākṣasas are wicked creatures, and will try all kinds of tricks” (790*.104-5).


“Jaṭāyus”: See 13.36 above. Both the NE and the NW versions include this reference to Jaṭāyus (see 789*.69-70, 790*.106-7), even though earlier they showed the vulture to have departed (see 16.3 note). The SR is not altogether consistent. either, for the bird at present is supposed to be sleeping in a tree at some distance from the ashram (see 48.1 and note).

Sarga 42


“a pair of quivers” kalāpau dvau: Indian epic heroes often wear two quivers, one at either side of the back, because they are able to shoot ambidextrously.

“the bow with triple curve” trivinataṃ cāpam: “That is, [Viṣṇu’s bow,] the śārṅga,” Cm, Cg (cf. note on 20.15 above).


“timorously” trāsāt: Cr cleverly takes the adverb with both pādas c and d: For fear of Rāma, Mārīca disappeared; for fear of Rāvaṇa, he showed himself again.


“autumn” śāradam: This particular adjective is used “because [it is then, after the rains, that] tatters of cloud are present,” Cg.

“and gone the next” muhūrtān na prakāśate: I follow the reading of the NE recension (supported in sense by the NW, 802*). The crit. ed. follows the SR, which offers “the next he appeared far away,” construing pādas ab with verse 6, and leaving cd hanging in the air (so Cm, Cg, Ck).


“helplessly (deluded)” vivaśaḥ ( … mohitaḥ): Cg, Ct seek to eliminate the unintentional criticism: “That is to say, under the sway of his curiosity, or, of his desire for the hide.”


“nocked his … bow” saṃdhāya … cāpe: The reading of the crit. ed. is dubious, especially insofar as not a single manuscript leaves the gerund without a direct object (cf. 807*, SR; 808*, NR), and also considering that it is Brahmā’s arrow at issue.


“illusory (deer form)” sadrśam (mṛgarūpasya): More literally, “the simulacrum (of the deer form).” The reading accepted by the crit. ed., sa bhṛśam, is based on very scanty and weak manuscript evidence (T3, G1, Dt, and some southern D codices), and worse, makes little sense. Ct’s attempt to explain the pāda so constituted (mṛgarūpasya, sc., mārīcarūpasya) will not do, since we need two objects for the two verbs. The reading adopted for the translation is that of the oldest commentators, Cv and Crā, for which the variant presented by Cm, Cg, Ck (śarīram) appears to be a lectio facilior. Curiously, the NR omits the hemistich.


“leaped” utpatya: That is, he was launched upward by the force of the arrow (Ck, Ct).


The sequence of verses for this sarga in N manuscripts is confused enough to suggest that this verse is out of place (and in fact it would more properly appear after verse 16, or even 13cd).


“bristled with dread” hṛṣṭatanūruhaḥ: “In reality Rāma thrills with pleasure [not dread] at the realization that in consequence of these events all his purposes will be achieved,” Ct (cf. the remarks of the commentators below, 50.11; for the question of the “divine plan,” see the Introduction, Chapter 4c).


“(Rāma’s) consternation gave way to a feeling of fear” bhayaṃ … viṣādajam: Cg believes Rāma’s fear (with respect to Sītā) to come, not on the heels of his own consternation, but as a result of his anticipating consternation on the part of Sītā herself.


“He killed another dappled deer” nihatya pṛṣataṃ cānyam: Why does Rāma slay another deer? The commentators are puzzled, too, and none offers a convincing explanation. Cr argues that “another” here really connotes “unusual,” the “unique” deer, Mārīca (but Rāma would hardly have taken the rākṣasa’s meat), and Ct maintains (if I understand him correctly, compare his remarks on GPP 46.1) that the poet has Rāma slay another deer only in order to occasion sufficient delay for the events of the following sarga to happen (though the fact that Mārīca had drawn Rāma “far away,” 42.8, should suffice). Venkatanathacharya (1965, p. 303 note) supposes him simply to be bringing home dinner, something that Lakṣmaṇa, now otherwise employed, would normally have done. This was clearly the understanding of the NW version (“He killed other deer for their meat,” 820*), and in 45.19 below Sītā informs Rāvaṇa that her husband will soon come “bringing an abundance of food from the forest” (explained by an SR insertion there as “the flesh of black deer, buffalo, and wild boar,” 881*). The indecision among the manuscripts reflected in the critical text here as elsewhere may result from the discomfort later felt regarding Rāma’s meat eating (see notes on 2.17.15, 48.15); still the narrative here seems inept.

“retraced his steps to Janasthāna” janasthānaṃ sasārābhimukhaḥ: On the question of the location of this area see 17.25 note above.

Sarga 43


“what you came here with the sole intention of doing” yatpradhānas tvam āgataḥ: That is, with the intention of violating Sītā himself. I agree with Ck in my analysis of the compound, which fits nicely in the context of verse 7 — and of course produces one of the finer ironies of the book: Sītā’s attack on Lakṣmaṇa opens the way for Rāvaṇa to do precisely what she falsely suspects of her brother-in-law. (The other interpretations, though they are basically attempts to palliate the insult and the sexual innuendo, deserve brief notice: “‘[What use is there in (protecting) me when he,] bent on [whose protection] you have come here, is in danger,’ because in such circumstances Sītā would not be expected to live a moment anyway,” Cm, Ct; similarly but more simply Cg: “‘You came bent on him,’ that is, on protecting him [and so you must do it]; ‘what can I do here?’”)


“there is … could match” vidyeta … pratiyudhyeta: Apparently troubled by the first optative, and this somewhat uncommon sense of prati + yudh, Ct explains, “[none] would survive … who would fight against.”


“their lord included” seśvaraiḥ: Indra, most probably, as Cg suggests (or, “their lords,” that is, Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Śiva, in the opinion of Cr).


“or any belonging to a god” na kaścid api daivataḥ: Although based on only one manuscript (D6; M3, however, is close) and one commentary (Ck [followed by Ct and Cr]), the reading is unusual enough to lay some claim to authenticity. Presumably the distinction being drawn is between a god’s real voice, which fortuitously sounds like that of the “godlike Rāma,” and the absolutely counterfeit voice of the rākṣasa (the most widely attested reading, and an old one [Cv’s], is māyayā kenacit kṛtaḥ, “Someone produced it by magic”; cf. NR 832*.2, “For even in the worst of circumstances Rāma would not call out in so cowardly a fashion”). Nonetheless, I wonder if the commentators preserving the reading failed to understand it, and that it means “or any that came about by chance” (daiva-tas). This at least sets up an intelligible opposition between Rāma’s real voice and an accidental approximation of it — both of which Lakṣmaṇa would want to exclude before drawing the conclusion that it belonged to the rākṣasa.


“shapely” varārohe: A stock epithet of Sītā, but strikingly inappropriate in the present context. The commentators’ silence, however, shows they were untroubled (cf. notes on 20.6 and 27.6).


“How pitiful this attempt of yours” karuṇārambha: Presumably referring back to the idea expressed in verse 8. Cs interestingly joins the whole pāda in compound, anāryakaruṇārambha, “You who take no pity on your brother” (a similar syntax in Ck, Ct, but with the nonsensical explanation “acting with ignoble pity”). Cg has some NE support for his ‘karuṇārambha, “how pitiless your venture.”

“you are pleased with all this” tava priyam: I translate the crit. ed. here, which is the reading of the SR, but it is somewhat vague without the SR’s following interpolation (“[I think you are pleased] with Rāma’s great calamity,” 835*), from which I borrow in recollection of verse 7 above. It is likely, however, that the true reading is preserved in the NE version, priyā, “(I believe you are) in love (with me).”


“1 am married … a husband” upasaṃśritya bhartāram: Literally, “Having betaken myself [to him] as husband.” Ś1 more straightforwardly reads upasaṃgamya, “Having [once] had sexual relations with” (on this sense of the word cf., for example, MBh 1.173.8).


“sharp-tongued” tīkṣṇāḥ: Cm, Cg gloss, “hardhearted.”


“the inhabitants of the forest” vanecarāḥ: The sylvan deities (Cm, Ck, Ct, Cr); see verse 30 below. It certainly appears as if this verse interrupts the argument of verses 27 and 29, but no manuscript casts doubt upon its authenticity.


“I pray I find” api … paśyeyam: Such absolute constructions of the optative with api express a wish; see 2.82.26 note, and 35.4 above. Ck interprets as a question.


Sītā protests one last time apparently in order to neutralize the remaining trace of hesitation she senses in Lakṣmaṇa’s words in verse 31 (thus Venkatanathacharya 1965, p. 309 note; Ck [so Ct] improbably supposes that Sītā wishes to assert her firmness of resolve lest Lakṣmaṇa suspect she might have relations with some other man in his absence).


“I would never touch any man” na tv ahaṃ … puruṣaṃ spṛśe: A claim made elsewhere by Sītā; see for instance 5.35.62-63. In his long commentary on this verse, Ct argues that by the threat “‘(I shall) throw myself into a blazing fire,’” Sītā is referring to what she will at all events actually do (“that is why no ‘or’ is used in this clause”). The implication for Ct is that Sītā will not go in her real form to Rāvaṇa’s palace, but instead, committing her real body to the fire, she will go in a magical form (Ct here cites KūrmaP [adhyāya 2.33.112ff.], “Fire took Rāma’s beloved and disappeared”; after the death of Rāvaṇa, Fire restores the real Sītā to Rāma in Rām 6.106; cf. also Raghavan 1973, pp. 37-38). If Rāvaṇa had touched the Blessed Lady, claims Ct, he would have perished instantly, and the slaughter of all the rākṣasas would never have taken place. That is the reason Sītā produces a magical form of herself. The burning of Laṅkā by the fire on Hanumān’s tail [Sundarakāṇḍa 52] is an additional consequence of [Sītā’s entering into the fire]: Agni, god of fire, had fallen under the power of Rāvaṇa and so could not burn his city, but by the entrance of Her śakti into Fire it regained the capacity to do so. (See also Pollock 1986, p. 28 and note 6, as well as Cg on 6.106.6, who scoffs at the belief in the māyā Sītā.)


“struck her belly with her fists” pānibhyāṃ … udaraṃ prajaghāna: “By this phrase what must be suggested is the thought that ‘My belly can only be filled by the death of all the rākṣasas’; otherwise the poet would have conformed with the well-known fact that women strike their breasts in moments of grief” (Ct; uraḥ is in fact read in the NE version).


“tried to comfort” āśvāsayām āsa: Note the clear conative aspect of the perfect here (see also 59.28 below, and note on 2.12.18).

“but” ca: See above, 9.14 note.

“she would say nothing more” na … uvāca: She refuses to say anything out of anger at what she supposes to be Lakṣmaṇa’s attempt to delay his departure by comforting her (Cg, Ck, Ct).

“husband’s brother” bhartuḥ … bhrātaram: The circumlocution (instead of using simply devara, “brother-in-law;” or the like) serves to suggest the alienation that has entered Sītā’s relationship with Lakṣmaṇa. The proper kinship term, devara-, will be employed when Sītā has cause to regret what she did (54.32; note, however, that in the MBh version, devara- is used at this junction in the story, 3.262.25).


“self-respecting” ātmavān: Surely here the correct — if an unrecorded — sense (contrast above, note on 6.12). The common meaning “self-controlled, self-possessed” is hardly apposite; what Lakṣmaṇa is doing is wholly impulsive, and a function of his wounded pride, as Rāma will point out (57.19-22).

“turned … and looked back” avekṣamānaḥ: Used as in 2.80.25.

Sarga 44


“longing” vikāṅkṣan: Cg is alone in understanding “unwilling[ly he set forth toward Rāma].”


“opening ( … [and he took advantage of] it)” antaram [āsthitah]: The noun is to be taken with both pādas a and b (so Cg; Cr interprets āsthitaḥ absolutely, “‘intent’, that is, on abducting Sītā”).

“Assuming the guise of a wandering mendicant” parivrājakarūpadhṛk: Rāvaṇa’s disguise as an ascetic is perhaps the first occurrence of what was to become a standard narrative motif of classical Sanskrit literature, the false ascetic (see Bloomfield 1924). Note that Hanumān, too, will approach Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa in the form of a mendicant (Kiṣkindhākāṇḍa 14).

“he turned his steps toward” abhicakrāma: In each of verses 3, 4, 8, 9, 12 a different verb expressing “motion toward” is employed, producing a crescendo of dramatic intensity. Cm believes that the verbs connote gradually higher degrees of propinquity.


“a … staff” yaṣṭi-: Taken by Cg, Ck, Ct, Cr to be the “triple staff” (tridaṇḍa), which indicates complete ascetic renunciation (cf. Kane 1962-1975, vol. 2, part 2, pp. 937ff.); Ct cites the Rāmopākhyāna description of Rāvaṇa as tridaṇḍadhṛk (MBh 3.262.16); for Cg, Cr, this status is implied by the attribution of the topknot, which he claims only the tridaṇḍin may wear.


“like total darkness advancing upon the twilight” saṃdhyām iva mahat tamaḥ: Cg remarks that “Here we have a ‘simile with the nonexistent’ [abhūtopamā], since the darkness cannot possibly exist so long as the twilight lasts,” but this seems hypercritical; the darkness can still be said to “advance on” the glow of twilight.


“as a planet” grahavad: The planet is Mercury, as 47.15 below shows (not a comet or meteor, with Ct, Cr, who are remembering 17.17 above). The asterism Rohiṇī (five stars in the constellation Taurus, according to Kirfel 1920, p. 36) is represented in Sanskrit literature as the beloved of the moon (see 2.106.3 note), and the NW version enhances the simile by employing in its variant here the common sobriquet of Rāma, Rāmacandra (“[looked at] her left without Rāma [the prince who was pleasing as] the moon”). Cg attempts to explicate the meaning of the figure: “Just as a hostile planet’s gazing at [that is, conjunction with] [the asterism] Rohiṇī works evil for the world, precisely so does Rāvaṇa’s gaze at Sītā.”

Although we may derive little satisfaction from such astronomical similes, they evidently possess deep aesthetic power for a traditional audience (they are used in the poem at moments of high drama, see for example verse 9 below, and especially 47.15 and note). We might be less impatient with them if we reflect on the centrality of astrology in traditional Indian life.


“the dreaded, evil creature” ugraṃ pāpakarmāṇam: The reading is marked as uncertain. A widespread variant is ugratejaḥkarmāṇam, “doer [of deeds] of fierce heat, brilliance,” something perhaps more to be feared by trees than “evil.”


“garments of yellow silk” pītakauśeyavāsinīm: Unlike Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa, Sītā has retained her courtly garments during the forest exile, at the insistence of King Daśaratha (see Ayodhyākāṇḍa 33).


“the sounds of the vedas on his lips” brahmaghoṣam udīrayan: Cg cites the prescription, “[A mendicant] should [daily] recite the upaniṣads” (Āru 2).


“like the goddess Śrī herself without the lotus” padmahīnām iva śriyam: The goddess is represented as residing in a lotus. It is unlikely that the poet would have felt there to be any contradiction with the following verse.


“like a lotus pond yourself” padminīva: “Because her face, eyes, hands, and feet are [soft or tapered] like lotuses,” Cg.


“Modesty” hrī: Otherwise the commentators (Cg, for instance, cites śruti to support his gloss “Earth, the wife of Viṣṇu”; Cm, “Hrī and the rest are particular śaktis of Viṣṇu”), but with little plausibility.


In the classical period Sanskrit poets generally take care to present an orderly description of female beauty. Normally they begin with the head and end with the feet (similar is the medieval ordo effictionis; see also DaśKuC pp. 3-4 [though contrast p. 50, a description that proceeds from foot to head], and Vallabhadeva on KumāSam 1.32). An interpolation of the NR attempts to approximate this schema (858* [ + verse 18], 860*: brows, cheeks, ears, breasts, hands, waist, the line of hair below it, the pubes, thighs, toes, soles, and feet).


“firm” saṃhatau: So I read, with half of the SR and the entire NR (cf. 861*) for the crit. ed.’s sahitau; see also below, verse 21, saṃhatastanī, and in 6.5.14, saṃhatau … stanau. The adjective is virtually obligatory in such passages.

“gently heaving” saṃpravalgitau: I adopt this variant, found in several S manuscripts, for the crit. ed.’s saṃpragalbhitau, a non-epic word, it appears, and one that is also short on sense (“‘that grow bold,’ namely, in embraces,” Ck, Ct). This choice is further corroborated by the use of the verb in 6.4.88, pravalgantam ivormibhiḥ, “(the ocean) gently heaving, it seemed, with its waves,” precisely the image the present verse, I think, wishes to convey (see also the description of Urvaśī in the MBh [3. App. I, No. 6.51], stanau tasyā vavalgatuḥ).


“compass with my fingers” karāntamita-: Within the circle of thumb and forefinger (Cg, Ck, Ct, Cr).

“No goddess, no gandharva woman” naiva devī na gandharvī: Repeated from Śūrpaṇakhā’s report, 32.15 above.


Hanumān will address the same words to Sītā in 5.31.5.


gandharvas”: The NE version attempts to make this reference intelligible by an insertion before the verse (865*, “ … Are you perhaps a gandharva woman … ?”).


“panthers, and tigers” dvīpivyāghramṛgāḥ: The final element, given the context, can hardly be taken to mean “deer”; in fact it looks as if it is functioning almost as an otiose suffix. But the reading is disputed in the manuscripts, and perhaps “wolves” (with several southern codices) is the correct one.

“flesh-eating birds” kaṅkāḥ: Thus in agreement with Cg (normally the word means simply “heron”).


“when food was ready” siddham: See verse 34 below.


The verses are recapitulatory, as Cg observes (see note on 2.57.38-39).


“saffron robe” kusumbha-: So Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct; Cg and Ct offer as alternative glosses, “water pot.”

“(impossible) to refuse” (aśakyam) uddveṣṭum: Cm, Cg presumably read udveṣṭum (“who was not to be fed [because his intention (-darśanāt) was to harm her (apāya-)”], the latter definitely a reading inferior to upāya-, “accoutrements” [it is this that Ct criticizes, pace Bhatt 1963, p. 407]), though this is not reported in the crit. ed. Neither ud + dviṣ nor ud + viṣ appears to be lexicographically recorded.

“she … him … befitting a brahman” brāhmaṇavat tam aṅganā: (Literally, “the woman … ”) For the reading see the emendation of the editor (Bhatt 1963, p. 407). The text as printed would give, “(she honored him) as he had come, like a brahman,” still preferable perhaps, despite the repetition of āgatam.

Cg cites here, “Merely on account of his saffron robe and staff is an ascetic to be honored, without fail,” this presumably despite what must strike us as the unascetic words Rāvaṇa has spoken.


“in his honest garb” suveṣam: Again the odd epithet for Rāma (if we read it straightforwardly, “well dressed,” so Cr; Crā, Cg, Ck, Ct all gloss it merely “handsome,” which is still irrelevant here), since he is dressed in barkcloth and hides (see 1.12 and note above). It gains some narrative relevance if we take the prefix su- as connoting “true, honest”: Rāma’s clothes truly declare the man and his good intentions — Rāma is a real ascetic, at least for the present — in stark contrast to the deceptive mendicant guise of Rāvaṇa.

Sarga 45


“For twelve years I lived” uṣitvā dvādaśa samāḥ: I read with the SR (supported by the NW version) for the reasons of chronology outlined in the note on 2.17.26 (the crit. ed.’s reading is, “For one year I lived”). For the finite use of the continuative here (thus, too, understood by Cg), see the note on 2.18.32.


“in the thirteenth year” trayodaśe varṣe: Again I accept the reading of the vulgate, see above (the crit. ed. has “a year later”). The emendations here and in the previous verse are those required in any case by the text-critical principles of the crit. ed.; if those principles are “wrong here” (van Daalen 1980, p. 214), then they are wrong everywhere, a claim that I have tried to show cannot be sustained (Pollock 1984b).

“the king” rājā: In place of rāmam as printed (an emendation made by the editor of the crit. ed., see Bhatt 1963, p. 407; the same manuscript evidence would of course require the slight alteration of pāda d).


“mother-in-law” āryā: The word is used in the epics to refer in a respectful way to a broad range of kinship relationships.


“had already married … for a consideration” pratigṛhya … sukṛtena: This translation, wholly at odds with the commentators, is supported by this signification of pratigṛhya elsewhere in the Rām (cf., for example, 13.11 above); sukṛtena I understand as instrumental of price, “at the price, cost, of a benefit, favor,” that is, the promise to her of the succession of her own son, Bharata (cf. 2.99.3, 9.10ff. and notes, 10.25, and Introduction to the Ayodhyākāṇḍa in Pollock 1986, pp. 27ff.). The singular “boon” mentioned in the previous verse, and the quite emphatic “two things” in the present one, make this analysis unavoidable. Cg, Ct gloss, “Having caused him to swear by his righteous merit” (thus Cm; cf. 2.10.25, but there we read the form parigṛhya [which in fact is what the Rāmopākhyāna presents in its version of the story, MBh 3.261.24], offered here only by some undistinguished S manuscripts); “or, ‘Having got him under her power by her good service,’ reminding him, that is, how she had saved his life” (see 2.10.25 and note); Ck, Ct, “‘[Having gotten him under her power (Ct)] by his favor,’ in the form of the boon he granted.”


On this verse, which is absent from the crit. ed. of the Ayodhyākāṇḍa, see the note on 2.9.45.

In a NE insertion hereafter the attempt is made to account for her requests (when only one boon was granted) by repeating the story of the boon given at the war of the gods and asuras (cf. 2.9.9ff.)


“with offers of commensurate riches” arthair anvarthaiḥ: “Useful riches,” Cm, Cg, Ct; “‘sensible, purposeful,’ sc., words,” Ck.


“twenty-five years old” pañcaviṃśakaḥ: For a detailed analysis of the problem of Rāma’s age, see the note on 2.17.26. Ck here remarks, “There is some [crow’s tooth, that is] mare’s nest of a discussion about Rāma’s age centering on this verse. I ignore it. Then again, let me simply report,” and he goes on to transcribe a traditional verse, which makes Rāma twelve at the time of his marriage, twenty-five at the time of his departure from Ayodhyā, and just under forty when Sītā is abducted. These are the figures given also by Cg here, and what scrutiny of the manuscript tradition reveals.

“and I had just passed my eighteenth birthday” aṣṭādaśa hi varṣāṇi mama janmani gaṇyate: 874* must be added to the text, for the only important manuscript that omits it, Ñ1, omits also the narratively essential verse 9, which shows that there was a lacuna in its exemplar.

“passed” gaṇyate: (Literally, “[eighteen years] were counted.”) A rare case of singular for plural metri causa.

Cm, Cg note that by the /bh/ in verse 10a, the ninth syllable of the Gāyatrīmantra, 8,000 verses of the [traditional] Rām have been completed (see note on 2.39.5).

Nearly all manuscripts (Ś, T3 are lacking here) add hereafter, “But my glorious father Daśaratha was tormented by passion, and to do what Kaikeyī wanted he did not have Rāma consecrated as king” (875*, 876*).


“in the forest” vane: The single word enjambment over hemistich boundary is rare in the Rām, and thus has dramatic force in the present instance (cf. note on 2.21.14).


With respect to Rāma’s vow see 2.81.16 and note, and 5.31.21.


“under compulsion” ojasā: In the sense of balāt, a usage I have not encountered elsewhere (though 5.49.22 may provide a possible parallel). Cg, Cr seem to understand, “by our own power,” which makes little sense.


Most of the SR adds hereafter, “Bringing the flesh of black deer, buffalo, and wild boar he has slain” (818*), on which see 42.21 note above.


“clan, and family” gotraṃ ca kulam: Cm, Ct distinguish them, claiming the former to be the paternal, the latter the maternal kin group (though usually both are reckoned paternal groups, the latter being a smaller division within the lineage).

“How is it that you … wander all alone in Daṇḍaka wilderness” ekaś ca daṇḍakāraṇye kimarthaṃ carasi: According to śruti, says Cg, “A mendicant should enter a village to beg,” and so should live in a forest near a village; Sītā thus reasonably wishes to know why he is wandering about in an area far away from the people who could give him alms.


“that froze her blood” tīvram: Cg glosses “hurriedly,” explaining that “Rāvaṇa had been impatiently awaiting the chance to reveal his own power [and so accomplish his abduction].”

It is surprising that Rāvaṇa, after all the care he took in his disguise, should so straightforwardly reveal himself. Perhaps the disguise was merely a way to gain the confidence of Sītā (or, not straightway to frighten her off, so Rāmacandra on RāmāCam p. 192), draw her into telling him her story, and so reveal unequivocally who she is, though it is improbable Rāvaṇa had any doubts; or likelier, a safety measure to confirm that his stratagem had worked, and that Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa are in fact gone.

The NE version adds a few more particulars hereafter: that he is brother to Kubera, son of Viśravas, grandson of Pulastya, who was himself son of Brahmā; and that Brahmā had granted him a boon (885*).


After this the NE version adds the interesting verse, “I am familiar with the fourteen [branches of science], I am adorned by the sixty-four [fine arts], I know the twenty-five principles [of Sāṃkhya], I am Rāvaṇa, give me your love” (cf. Ct on GPP 48.25, who dismisses this as an interpolation on text-critical and narrative grounds).

In a long note here Ct is at pains to refute the theological position of Cm, which attempts to show that Rāvaṇa is really a devotee of Sītā’s (albeit a tāmasabhakta), and that therefore all his remarks here can be interpreted as promises of self-abandoning devotion to his iṣṭadevatā, toward whom he is in reality behaving like a son (Cm does in fact attempt to maintain this interpretation throughout much of the Araṇyakāṇḍa and later; see for example the remarks on 46.16 below). Ct asserts there is nothing to indicate that Rāvaṇa has any knowledge of the ultimate truth; furthermore, to believe that he knows Rāma and Sītā to be the supreme Lords would stand in flat contradiction with the ViṣṇuP (Ct goes on then to cite at length the interesting passage from this text, 4.15.1ff., where Rāvaṇa’s failure to secure final liberation even though slain by the Blessed One is reckoned a consequence of his believing Rāma to be a mere human being; he looks upon Sītā, too, with a profane eye, he abducts her thinking her a mere woman and not the Mother Goddess, and for that the Blessed One slays him). “The efforts of [Maheśvara]tīrtha and others to construe otherwise such statements as Rāvaṇa makes here are totally fruitless.”


“I am faithful to Rāma” rāmam anuvratā: On the refrain style from here to the end of the sarga (29-31; 32-39; 40-42), see the remarks in 2.25.5 note.


The NE version and two NW manuscripts transpose these two verses, which makes sense in view of the metaphor used in verse 32.


“a lionlike man” nṛsiṃham: By this, according to Ct, is suggested Viṣṇu’s avatāra as the man-lion.

In an NE insertion here, Sītā compares Rāma to Viṣṇu and herself to Śrī (892*.12).


“You could no more touch me” nāhaṃ śakyā tvayā spraṣṭum: It is not clear what Sītā really means by this claim — Rāvaṇa will have no trouble in carrying her off. Perhaps simply “touch and yet survive”? Or does the locution connote sexual union?


“many a golden tree” pādapān kāñcanān … bahūn: I am unable to find any information concerning this sign of imminent death, to which Vālmīki refers elsewhere (cf. 51.17, 64.11). The commentators merely remark, “It is well known [from the purāṇas, Cr; from the jyotiḥśāstra, according to Cm on 64.11] that a person on the point of death sees golden trees, or, that seeing golden trees is a sign of imminent death” (Cm, Ck, Ct). The convention is known to the MBh, too (cf. 6.94.12).


The two halves of this verse construe only if forced. NE and NW manuscripts (in part) felt similarly and read, “You are [madly] seeking to seize the meat from the mouth of a starving rampant lion” (894*, 895*; note particularly the agreement of Ñ1 and D1, 3). This may have been original and, later viewed as an unsuitable image for Sītā to use however allusively of herself, awkwardly altered.

Cg, Ct, Cr identify the figure in this and the following verses as nidarśanā “(negative) illustration” (see Gerow 1971, p. 202).


“to carry off Mandara … in your hand” mandaraṃ … pāṇinā hatrtun: According to the Uttarakāṇḍa at least (the incident does not, however, appear to be mentioned in Books Two through Six), Rāvaṇa is in fact said to have lifted Mount Kailāsa from its foundations (cf. 7.16).

kālakūṭa poison” kālakūṭaṃ viṣam: A byproduct generated when the gods and demons churned the Milk Ocean for the drink of immortality (the legend, curiously, is excluded from the accounts of the myth in the crit. eds. of both the Bālakāṇḍa [see notes on 1.44.17 and 24] and the MBh [1.274*], though it is clear from Rām 5.16.20, 20.26 that Vālmīki knows it).


“licking” leḍhi: Ct reminds us that the correct form for the second person singular of this verb (that printed is third singular) is lekṣi, a variant given by the NE version (900*).


“the very sun and moon” sūryācandramasau cobhau: Note the vedic dual (devatādvandva), “de type solennel” as Renou puts it (1968, p. 103, though he incorrectly repeats Michelson’s error [1904, p. 95] that the Rām presents no examples of the form; see also note on 2.85.14). Perhaps, consequently, the NE’s devau (“gods”) for ubhau (“both,” “the very”) is to be preferred. Recall that Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa are compared to the sun and moon earlier (see 3.27, 22.34, and note also 30.16).


“You have seen” dṛṣṭvā: The reading strikes me as weak. The NE offers baddhvā, “You have tied up (a blazing fire in a cloth)”; cf. MBh 11.1.32, agniṃ vastreṇa pariveṣṭayet, “[as] one who would try to wrap up fire in a cloth.”


“rare wine” surāgrya-: My translation is based on Cg (thus too Ck, Ct, Cr).


“lead” sīsaloha-: Literally, “lead metal.” Cg would join the second element with “gold” as well, “since gold is counted one of the nine metals” (I agree with Ct, Cr).

“in the forest” vane: The nuance of this qualification, used in the next verse also, escapes me as it escaped the NE version, which on both occasions eliminates it.


“no more than a fly the diamond chip it swallows” vajraṃ yathā makṣikayāvagīrṇam: No doubt a bizarre image at first sight, but finally not impossible, and, given the tone of verses 32-42, rather appropriate. The commentators, with the exception of Cv, try to simplify matters by citing śruti to show that vajra- (“diamond”) can mean “clarified butter” (thus, “as ghee eaten along with a fly in it cannot be digested,” Cm, Cg, Ck — a simile with little propriety in the present context; somewhat better are Ct, Cr, “as ghee eaten by a fly cannot be digested”; the reading “ājyam [ghee]” has actually made its way into several inferior manuscripts); however, I find no authority for this signification. Can the NW version have preserved the correct reading in vajraḥ, “like the glue eaten by a fly”?

The image of “digesting” Sītā, which appears also in 5.49.22 (and cf. below, 48.17), has perhaps more than metaphorical significance: rākṣasas looked upon humans as objects not just of sexual but also of gustatory pleasure; see Rāvaṇa’s threat in 54.22 below, and note on 21.5 above.

Hereafter the NE version adds,

Śacī might be taken from Indra, who bears the thunderbolt; the flame might be taken from the flaming fire, or Umā from Sthāṇu [Śiva], the lord of the world, but you, Rāvaṇa, can never take me from Rāghava. (910*)

Sarga 46


“(he) harshly (replied)” paruṣākṣaram ( … pratyuvāca): The adverb can as well be taken with pāda a (“[was speaking] in this harsh manner”), as Venkatanathacharya suggests (1965, p. 328 note).


“half brother” sāpatnyaḥ: Literally, “son of a co-wife,” similarly vaimātraḥ in verse 4 (cf. 45.16). It is interesting that despite Rāvaṇa’s own distinguished lineage (cf. 45.22 note), he should derive particular pride from his kinship with Kubera. Sītā will accordingly challenge him on this (see verse 20 below).


“(half) brother” bhrātā (vaimātraḥ): Many manuscripts, of both recensions, read rājā, “king.” Rāvaṇa’s usurpation of his elder brother’s throne is related in Book Seven, sarga 11. What is here expressed by the vague phrase kāraṇāntare, “in connection with some issue between us” (cf. 67.31 and note, and 4.10.23, in reference to Sugrīva and Vālin), appears in the Uttarakāṇḍa to have been nothing less than Rāvaṇa’s lust for power, in which he was encouraged by his maternal grandfather Sumālin and others. (Cs suggests the compound refers to “the keeping of his mother’s command,” that is, Rāvaṇa’s promise to his jealous mother that he would some-day equal or outshine his brother, 7.9.32ff.)


“his own … realm” svam adhiṣṭhānam: Laṅkā, according to Cm, Ct, Cr. It certainly does look as if it is there that Rāvaṇa defeats Kubera, who then quits his home for Mount Kailāsa, though this is at odds with other versions of the incident (see 30.14 note).

“with only men to convey him” naravāhanaḥ: The following verse, describing the expropriation of Kubera’s (Vaiśravaṇa’s) sky-going chariot, seems intended to clarify this obscure epithet — in later literature it is applied to Kubera in an altogether ornamental manner — which I therefore invest with a more immediate narrative relevance in the translation. See also 30.14 note.


The story is related in Uttarakāṇḍa 15. Note that the Puṣpaka must still be in Laṅkā (see 33.5ff. note), and therefore I translate “the lovely,” not “this … .” It is noteworthy that the verse is so explicit about Rāvaṇa’s riding in the sky-going chariot, for in the Rāmopākhyāna Kubera curses him that he shall never do so (MBh 3.259.34-35).


After this verse some N manuscripts insert eight lines in which Rāvaṇa claims to have defeated the (other) world protectors Śakra, Varuṇa, and Yama (911*; on the last see 47.3, 6.7.13 and 7.20-22).


Compare 1.14.9-10, where the elements are said to moderate their force in the presence of Rāvaṇa, and, as in verse 7 above, the gods to stand in fear of him.


“wherever” yatra tatra: See PW, s.v. yatra 1b. A number of manuscripts seem to have mistaken the usage, and so transpose the two adverbs in order to eliminate the apparent inversion of the reasoning.


“On the further shore of the ocean” pāre samudrasya: “That is, on Mount Trikūṭa in the middle of the ocean, which may be said to resemble a further shore,” Cg.


“a white rampart” prākāreṇa … pāṇḍureṇa: It is white because it is either whitewashed (Ck, Ct) or made of silver (Cm, Cg, Ct, Cr; in 6.3.13 it is said to be golden).


“gardens … filled with” saṃkulodyāna-: I agree with Cr in taking this as a compound, even though it occasions an unpaninian syntax with the external items in pāda c; Venkatanathacharya 1965, p. 331 note, takes the two words in the compound separately.


“Rāvaṇa here answers the criticism implicit in Sītā’s earlier statement [45.4].” Cg.

“that short-lived mortal” gatāyuṣaḥ: On this emphatic reference to the presumed mortality of the hero, see 2.10 note above. (Ct comments: “The sense is either that his life is delimited in actual number of years — that is, 11,000 [cf. e.g., 6.116.90] — or that Rāvaṇa intends to slay him.”)


“miserable ascetic” tāpasena tapasvinā: See 5.19 note above. I find no authority for taking either tāpasa- (Cg) or tapasvin (Ck, Ct) in the sense of “coward.” In a paroxysm of pious horror at these criticisms of Rāma even in the mouth of Rāvaṇa, Cm reinterprets this passage (verses 13-18, and verse 16 in particular) as containing a glorification of Rāma as Nārāyaṇa, “in reality” (though the surface or literal meaning [prātītikārtha] may signify something quite different). (Cf. Ct’s arguments noticed above on 45.27.)


“(lord of) all (rākṣasas has come here in person), of his own accord” sarva (rākṣasabhartāraṃ) kāmāt (svayam ihāgatam): Ct reads instead, rakṣa … kāmaya, “Save (the master of rākṣasas), make love (to me who have come here in person)” (recorded only partially in the crit. ed.).

“of his own accord” kāmāt: See note on 2.86.1; here probably also with some resonance of “out of desire.”


“timid lady” bhīru: “The epithet is used to intimate that Rāvaṇa believes the only reason Sītā might reject him is her fear of Rāma,” Cg.

“just like Urvaśī after she spurned Purūravas” caraṇenābhihatyeva purūravasam urvaśī: Literally, “ … kicked … with her foot.” The love story of the lunar king Purūravas and the apsaras Urvaśī is told in many different texts, starting with the ṚV (10.95; see Kosambi 1951, and Wright 1967). No version represents Urvaśī as “kicking” the king; in the vedic poem (verse 13), and only there, she may be said to reject him scornfully, and it is to this that I believe the words here figuratively refer (a dead metaphor, thus, exactly comparable to the English word spurn).

Most of the SR adds hereafter,

That man, Rāma, is not equal to my little finger in battle! To your good fortune am I come; love me, fairest woman. (913*)


“in that deserted spot” rahite: Cg notes that although solitude is usually a spur to passion, the poet shows Sītā here speaking harshly in solitude and thereby underscores her chastity and fidelity.


“This verse implies that Sītā believes Rāvaṇa fraudulently represented his lineage,” Ct.


Cf. the words of Mārīca above, 39.15.


“a woman like me” mādṛśīm: The circumlocution (for “me,” simply) is used, according to Cg, to “to avoid the vulgar.”

Ct here cites the verse discussed in 45.27 note.

Sarga 47


“made ready to assume” cakāra: The verb probably has an inchoative aspect (cf. note on 2.70.3), since Rāvaṇa’s form is not changed until verse 6. The NE version found this awkward, and read verses 8 and 6 directly after verse 1.

Rāvaṇa takes on his true form, in the opinion of Ct, either for fear that Sītā might turn violent at the moment of abduction, or because the mendicant’s garb might prove an impediment to him, since “even worn as a disguise it induces a certain tranquility of temperament.”


“did … hear” śrutau: Thus in agreement with Cg, Ck. Ct’s alternative is possible, however: “(I suppose you) have (not) heard (about … ).”


“I can slay Death” mṛtyuṃ hanyām: See note on 46.7 above; though often given separate names, Death and Yama are in the epics usually considered virtually identical (see for example Hopkins 1915, p. 108).


“younger brother to VaiśRavaṇa” vaiśravaṇānujaḥ: The point of the epithet is to suggest, according to Cg, “despite the identical conditions of their birth, how cruel one of the two became.”


“a red garment” raktāmbara-: According to the traditional color associations reported by Bharatamuni, red is indicative of the emotional atmosphere, not of eroticism (that would be dark blue), but of violence (cf. NāṭyaŚā 6.42, [śyāmo bhavati śṛṅgāraḥ … ] rakto raudraḥ prakīrtitaḥ).

“her jet-black hair, her sunlike radiance” asitakeśāntāṃ bhāskarasya prabhām iva: The two statements have no intrinsic connection (though Ct and Cs construe them so, on the basis of the statement in the ChāndoU [8.6.1], “The sun is yellow … deep blue-black”), but are juxtaposed merely to establish a contrast, characteristic of Vālmīki’s style (see also note on 2.35.21).


“as … Budha … Rohiṇī in the sky” budhaḥ khe rohiṇīm iva: Budha is the planet Mercury; on Rohiṇī see above, 44.5 note.

As previously observed (44.5), it is hard to feel the aesthetic force of the vapid simile, which seems particularly unhappy coming at the climax of so extraordinary a crescendo of dread over Rāvaṇa’s desecration of Sītā. The commentators appear to have felt this, too, in the present instance, for they take pains to justify the simile. Cg (similarly Ck) claims a likeness is being made to something hypothetical (abhūtopamā): Rāvaṇa’s act was as evil as it would be if Budha were ever to lay hold of Rohiṇī, who is his own mother (according to such passages as MBh 7.119.4). Ck finds deep theological significance in the simile, and claims that the meaning of the verse is accessible to the understanding of yogins alone, and cannot be the subject of open inquiry.

The ṭīkā on Cm (GPP p. 284) reports the traditional interpretation (citing the SkandaP) which explains that Rāvaṇa does not actually touch Sītā herself, but only seizes her shadow (as rākṣasas are able to do). He avoids actually touching her, since twice before when he had outraged women, he had been cursed (by Vedavatī, 7.17.22ff., and by Nalakūbara, 7.26.42ff.).


“wheels” -aṅgaḥ: So correctly glossed by Cg (cf. hemacakra in reference to Khara’s chariot, 21.14).


“to his breast” aṅkena: See note on 2.66.4 for this often misunderstood word (Cg, “at the thighs”; Ck, “at the hips, that is, with his other arms”).

“boarded” āropayat I take the causative here as svārthe (see note on 26.20 above), insofar as Sītā is still in his arms in the next verse (the commentators are silent). Hereafter the NE version inserts the following verse:

It was at the hour when it is half day and half night, when the sun is half set and the moon half risen that the rākṣasa seized Vaidehī, like a śūdra seizing the revelation of the veda. (926*)


“Sītā screamed at the top of her voice” aticukrośa … sītā: “Sītā’s magical shadow [see above, 43.34 note] also has the power to mimic human behavior,” Ct.


“Lakṣmaṇa”: That Sītā should summon Lakṣmaṇa at this juncture is inconsistent unless we assume a degree of remorse on her part for which we have not been prepared (cf. 54.32 and note); it is additionally odd coming between verses 24 and 26, which are clearly addressed to Rāma. But there are no variants in the manuscripts.

“who can change his form at will” kāmarūpiṇā: The reading, adopted by the crit. ed., is supported principally by D6, several B manuscripts, and G2,3 along with Ct. Most of the SR (the NR diverges here) offers mām amarṣiṇā, “(is carrying) me off in implacable anger,” “that is, over the death of Khara,” says Cg implausibly, for how is Sītā to know this? We must have the pronoun mām (“me”) here somewhere, although the reading of the line as transmitted in the S version is weak. One conjecture that suggests itself is amarṣiṇīm (“against my will,” which seems to be the meaning of the adjective in 5.29.8, amarṣāpahṛtā jānakī rāvaneṇa).


“life’s pleasures” jīvitaṃ sukham: The hendiadys is paralleled elsewhere in the Rām; see note on 2.18.22.


“But no” na tu: So I read, for the nanu of the crit. ed., with Crā, Cg (misreported by the crit. ed.), Ck, and most S manuscripts. The verse supplies the reason why Rāma (or Lakṣmaṇa) cannot immediately punish Rāvaṇa (so Cg, Ck). Contrast the view of retribution articulated in 28.9 above.


The verse is addressed to Rāvaṇa; the NE version tries to ease the transition by identifying him as the subject. For other cases of sudden change in addressee see 2.11.6, 52.22 and note, 53.24. Such shifts sometimes certainly result from manuscript confusion; in the present instance, however, it may serve to indicate a dramatic disorientation in Sītā’s thinking, as suggested by verse 22 above.


“Kaikeyī … must be satisfied” sakāmā kaikeyī: Despite Rāma’s prohibition against doing so (15.34-35), Sītā blames her mother-in-law for her troubles both here and later in the epic (6.23.4ff.).

“has been taken” hriyeyam: Apparently a passive with active termination, though there is little call for the optative (see also Böhtlingk 1887, p. 220), unless we have a case of double sandhi (hriye iyam > hriya iyam > hriyeyam). The NR offers the reasonable hriye ‘ham.


“tell” śaṃsadhvam: The plural verb, here and in verse 31, is explained by Cr as referring to the different animate parts of the mountain (or river). The NE version reads the singular in both places. Ck considers the two verses to be interpolations, and they are in fact missing from several manuscripts of the NE, NW, and S versions (though the editor unjustifiably assumes haplography).


In an SR insertion hereafter Sītā sees Jaṭāyus, but warns that Rāvaṇa is too powerful for the vulture to attempt to stop by force (937*).

Sarga 48


Cg remarks, “The story of Jaṭāyus is presented in these two sargas [48, 49] in order to reaffirm for people the ideal that a servant must subordinate his own interests as far as he is able to those of his master.” According to 41.49 Jaṭāyus was to help guard Sītā, and that he did not immediately come to her aid but was off sleeping in a tree is something the NR attempted to explain by the insertion noted on 16.3 (and to some extent again here in interpolation 939*, which shows the vulture to be on a “lovely mountain outcropping”), though see 41.49 note. The Rāmopākhyāna does not introduce Jaṭāyus at all until this point in the narrative (MBh 3.263.1), and this together with the narrative problems does suggest that the previous encounter (13.1ff.) is a later addition (though how Sītā would know to address him by name here would remain unexplained; there is no evidence, however, that the entire Jaṭāyus episode is “a clumsy interpolation in honor of Rāma,” as Hopkins asserted, 1915, p. 211). Jaṭāyus’s afternoon napping — he is some 60,000 years old, after all (verse 19) — might be taken as justifying his dilatoriness to so extent. And the poet certainly does seem to wish to enhance this image of the aged grandfather by lending a kind of homiletic, Nestorian quality to his discourse.


“puts his trust in truth” satyasaṃśrayaḥ: Ck, Ct, and several manuscripts read instead satyasaṃśravaḥ, “whose promise is true,” that is, his promise to protect Sītā (13.34).

It is noteworthy that Jaṭāyus knows Rāvaṇa — he recognizes him immediately (see also verse 10 and note below) — sharing in this respect the knowledge possessed by his brother Sampāti, who will later inform the monkeys of the whereabouts of Sītā (4.57.19ff.). On this see Goldman and Masson 1969.


“and a king’s wife at that” viśeṣeṇa rājadārā: Sexual intercourse with a king’s wife is, according to the commentators, comparable to incest (Cm, Ct, Ctr [who cites one Vyāghra]).


“what others would censure” yat paro ‘sya vigarhayet: I translate the reading of the crit. ed. (thus Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct, Cr), although it seems unusually vacuous even for a simple homiletic on consensual morality (as well as tautologous, amounting to little more than “a wise man should not do what he should not do”). Nor does it construe at all well with pādas cd, which suggest that the intended sense is: the wise man is to treat others as he would be treated. The conjectural parasya (or, pareṣu), or the reading attested in NE manuscripts, pareṣām (though the intention here is somewhat different), would offer the more intelligible, “[A wise man should not do] what he would censure in someone else.”


“according to how kings behave” anu rājānam: The classical doctrine of the dharmaśāstras is that questions not treated in the śāstras themselves are to be determined in accordance with “the conduct of the good” (sadācāra) or, sometimes, “the learned” (śiṣṭa). Insofar as the king may be both, he could be said to establish the standard. But I believe we have here a somewhat earlier stage of development in the doctrine of the foundations of moral conduct, that typified in the Mahābhārata, which repeatedly claims that the king is the source of all dharma (see, for example, 12.63.25ff., 12.68.8). See the Introduction, Chapter 4, and for the idea itself, Rām 2.101.9 and note, and above, 39.10.

“righteousness” dharmam: The location of the word in the verse is unusual. There seems to be no metrical exigency for it; perhaps it is a position of emphasis. Various manuscripts attempt emendation.


“the ultimate repository of wealth” dravyāṇāṃ cottamo nidhiḥ: A periphrasis for artha. Cg notes, “People behave in accordance with righteousness, or contrary to it, depending on how the king himself behaves.”

“conduct” dharmaḥ: Here the word clearly must have a much broader sense than normally: a way of being, or acting.


“How could you possibly have secured your lofty position of power” kathaṃ tvam … aiśvaryam abhisaṃprāptaḥ: If kings are the standard of morality, then obviously only the good should be kings, hence Jaṭāyus’s amazement. Again the vulture-king seems to be rather well acquainted with Rāvaṇa.

“a celestial chariot” vimānam: These appear to be awarded, in the first instance, to the dead in recognition of their beneficent life on earth (cf. 2.58.42). Perhaps here we have also the implicit criticism that Rāvaṇa has no right to the Puṣpaka chariot.


“Indeed” kāmam: The adversative particle has decisive manuscript support, whereas kāmasvabhāvaḥ not only does not occur in the Rām but also introduces an unnecessary restriction in the verse, against which the generalizing yo yasya also argues. (Perhaps it originates in a scribal reminiscence of pāpasvabhāvaḥ in the previous verse.) For this restrictive use of kāmam in the emphatic initial position see 2.4.26.

“The noble … linger” ārya āvasati: Such or the plural (āryā āvasanti, or, nivasanti) is probably the correct reading here (for the misprinted critical text, and mistaken editorial emendation, Bhatt 1963, p. 408; Cg does read āryam, glossing it “the instruction of the good” [which “does not dwell long in the ‘abode,’ that is, the heart, of the wicked”], but I find no attestation of the neuter āryam substantive). The line is problematic, but the point of the rhetorical figure of “substantiation” (arthāntaranyāsa) seems to be that the evil man may “entertain” or try to cultivate a beneficent character, but it can never become a permanent trait of his personality (the whole verse answering the implicit objection: Once evil, always evil? Might Rāvaṇa not perhaps have changed [and so become worthy of kingship, verse 10]?).


Like Jaṭāyus, Rāvaṇa’s younger brother Vibhīṣaṇa will later assert that Rāma has done no wrong to Rāvaṇa, since Khara merely got what he deserved; and like the vulture-king he, too, will ignore what was done to Śūrpaṇakhā (6.9.13-15).


“with his … eye” cakṣuṣā: Presumably with his evil eye (cf. for example MBh 2.71.3), rather than with the fiery ascetic power emanating from a “third” eye. Cg notes, “The implication is that Rāma could slay him with a mere glance,” and this hardly seems to be a dead metaphor (for “wrathful glance” or something of the sort).

“as … Vṛtra”: See 29.28 note above.


“the kingship of my fathers and forefathers” pitṛpaitāmahaṃ rājyam: Jaṭāyus succeeded to the kingship of the vultures even though his brother, Sampāti, was the elder of the two (cf. 4.56ff. and vulgate 3.58.2, 11); another example of the pervasive theme of the “disqualified elder” (cf. Pollock 1986, pp. 13ff. and note 12).


Jaṭāyus’s reflections seem complicated by the fact that he may be thinking of two things at once: Rāma’s returning and fighting (verses 22, 23) and his own fighting in the event Rāma does not return (verses 20, 21, 24ff.).


“rob the vedas of their plain sense by arguments tricked out with logic” hetubhir nyāyasaṃyuktair dhruvāṃ vedaśrutīṃ: For the sin of trying to interpret away the clear sense of the vedas by means of logic see note on 2.94.33. Ctr (p. 185) appositely cites the KāṭhU (1.2.9): “Not by reasoning is this thought to be attained.” Cg extends the simile even further: “Just as the man who would alter the sense of the vedas perishes while the vedas themselves remain unharmed, so by stealing away Sītā will Rāvaṇa perish while no harm will come to Sītā. Such is the deeper meaning.” Cm observes, “The power with which Rāvaṇa is endowed is as illusory as the force of logical argumentation. He cannot steal away Sītā, who will herself destroy him, just as the veda in the course of time overrules logical reasoning.”


“fight” yuddhyasva: (More properly yudhyasva.) Fight, that is with Rāma (thus, also, Cg’s third interpretation); see verse 23d.


“who has often killed daityas and dānavas” asakṛt … yena nihatā daityadānavāḥ: Although the verse is missing in NE manuscripts, the editor may be correct in inferring haplographic omission there, rather than interpolation elsewhere. For all that, the verse is still unusual, since Rāma nowhere is said to have accomplished such feats (see, however, Sumitrā’s words in 2.39.11). The implication of the lines, for Ct, is that “Rāma is the supreme Lord,” which is the significance of the citation adduced by Cg, “He is therefore said to be ‘the deity that stands above both gods and dānavas’” [cf. ParaS 23.471, and how it was understood by Hopkins, who took it as another sign that the whole episode of Jaṭāyus is a later insertion (1915, p. 211).


Jaṭāyus here realizes that his challenge to Rāvaṇa to wait and fight Rāma is absurd: It is precisely for fear of Rāma that Rāvaṇa is hurrying off. This convinces him that he must take matters into his own hands (verses 25ff.).

Sarga 49


“wearing earrings” -kuṇḍalaḥ: It is remarkable how frequently attention is called to the jewelry worn by the rākṣasas (in the Araṇyakāṇḍa alone, cf. 24.20, 25.7, 30.9, 33.8, 36.2, 36.13, 42.16, 47.7, 57.24). What is unclear, however, is the significance we should attribute to this detail.


“garlanded” mālyavatoḥ: Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct understand this instead as a proper name, “the two Mount Mālyavans,” one in the Daṇḍaka forest, one in Kiṣkindhā (or, according to Cm, Ct, on the flank of Meru). I agree with Cr; cf. 47.30, where the word is glossed as an adjective by Cg and the ṭīkā on Cm, and 5.56.14.

“when they still had wings” sapakṣayoḥ: Mountains are supposed to have had wings until Indra chopped them off (see the note on 2.83.19).


“(shower of arrows,) Rāvaṇa’s missiles” (śarajālāni) … rāvaṇāstrāṇi: The appositive is out of style; the emendation rāvaṇāstāni (“shot by Rāvaṇa”) easily suggests itself (see also Ct), but is not reported by the crit. ed. to have any manuscript support.


Hereafter the NW version (963*, so the NE [968*] and the SR [969*] after verse 14) adds that Jaṭāyus slays Rāvaṇa’s charioteer (cf. verse 15 and note below).


“shield” śarāvaram: See De 1958, p. 1145; less likely “quiver” (suggested by some commentators on 63.17 below).


“charioteer and team all dead” hatāśvo hatasārathiḥ: The quarter verse is strictly formulaic (see, for example, 27.29 above, 6.34.28; MBh 6.49.28, 109.16, etc.; note here -aśva-, “horses,” though only asses have been referred to), and so we need not be too troubled that no charioteer has previously been mentioned (see above 11 note, though also 33.4ff.); the SR, however, feels it has to add a verse later to account for him (see 60.33 note). Or perhaps the charioteer would simply be assumed to be present, insofar as heroes as a rule do not drive their own chariots.


“upon their ashram” āśramasyāsya: “By the word ‘ashram’ is meant the woman in the ashram, as in the [metonymical] locution, ‘the stands cheered,’” Cg. The larger term is used apparently to underscore the heinousness of the attack, made against men not on the field of battle.


“taking the route of a thief” taskarācarito mārgaḥ: The charge will be repeated by Rāma when he faces Rāvaṇa in combat (6.92.17).


“When a man’s end is near” paretakāle: The verse may seem self-contradictory, since it combines two notions: (a) at the hour of his death a man behaves irrationally (see, for example, 2.98.51, and below, 51.15; so Venkatanathacharya here, “Only if one’s death were near would one do such a deed,” 1965, p. 351 note); (b) irrational behavior brings about one’s death, or perhaps better, seals one’s fate (Cg, “from doing this type of deed he will necessarily and without delay meet death”). And yet one wonders whether the SR, whose reading was accepted by the crit. ed., did not actually misunderstand (falsely harking back to paretakalpān 39.20) an original preserved in the NR, parītakālaḥ (which I take as pūrvanipāta for the metrically more awkward kālaparīta-, “harried, beset, by Doom”), which finds some support in the MBh: parītakālān iva naṣṭasaṃjñān, “like men beset by Doom, and [so] driven mad” (6.73.43; cf. parītāḥ kāladharmaṇā, 14.53.21).


“not the lord of the world himself, the … Self-existent Brahmā” lokādhipatiḥ svayaṃbhūḥ: That is, not even he (or they, according to Ck, Ct, who understand the first epithet to refer to Indra) who apportions the fruit of good and evil deeds.


“upon the back” pṛṣṭhe: “By this specification we gather that Rāvaṇa has ignored Jaṭāyus and is fleeing,” Cg.


“with fists and feet” muṣṭibhyāṃ caraṇābhyām: Note the dual, which the poet generally uses in reference to Rāvaṇa (for eyes, hands, arms; thus consistently in 5.8.13-20), unless he means particularly to emphasize the rākṣasa’s multilimbed physical form.


“incomparable in strength” atulavīryayoh: Or, very possibly, “whose powers were not equal.”


“bird” patraratham: Literally, “with wings for chariot,” a not-uncommon kenning but here used with pathetic irony now that Jaṭāyus’s wings have been severed.

Sarga 50


“Whenever good or evil is about to befall” sukhaduḥkheṣu: I agree with Cr in taking this compound independently; Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct construe it closely with nimittam (“a portent of good or evil”), which I find improbably awkward.

“signs perceived” lakṣaṇajñānam: Such as twitches and the like (Ck adds such things as seeing oneself crooked-headed or headless in a mirror water), which are considered to be portents (and which Rāma will in fact perceive, though not in time, sarga 55), so Cm, Cg, Ct. The reading is disputed, however, and some manuscripts or commentaries or both understand jñānam separately, “a sudden premonition” (so Cv; Ck, Ct read instead [lakṣaṇaṃ] svapnam, “[signs and] dreams,” but of course Rāma is not at present asleep).

“birds of omen seen or heard” śakunisvaradarśanam: Less likely Cm, Cg, who analyze the second element as a tatpuruṣa, “‘the sight,’ that is, perception ‘of the sounds of birds’”; I am supported in part by Ct, Cr.


“could hear” śṛṇvatām: Expect the dual (cf. 67.20 note below for further examples of the epicism). Cm explains, “(she cried as one might if people ‘were nearby and) could hear’” (Ct, “‘so that only those in the vicinity might hear’: that is, lest Rāma come too soon [and the divine plan of slaying all the rākṣasas be frustrated]”).


“a massive tree” mahādrumān: I do not understand the use of the well-attested plural: one cannot simultaneously cling to many large trees. Or are we to take it distributively, “one tree after another”? Uncertain, I translate as singular.


“from end to end” amaryādam: Literally, “without limits.” The commentators, perhaps rightly, all interpret figuratively (“the world became ‘without limits,’” the natural limits, or better, specific natures, of things had been overstepped), but this makes little sense without the interpolation that follows (“The wind did not blow, the sun did not shine,” 996*), unless the insertion was made precisely to explain the function of the qualification. (The usage in 60.46 may be thought to support this.)


“‘What had to be done’” kāryam: The necessary outrage on the part of Rāvaṇa that would provoke the implacable enmity of Rāma. On the issue of the “divine plan” and its central (and authentic) presence in the Rām, see above, 4.19 note.


“shuddered (and trembled)” prahṛṣṭā (vyathitāḥ): Many S manuscripts (including the vulgate) seem to mistake the meaning of prahṛṣṭa- here and, taking it in its more usual sense (“shivered,” that is, with joy), are forced to interpolate “knowing that Rāvaṇa was now doomed to meet with destruction” (997*; see also the NW variants for the end of the pāda, muditāḥ, paramaprītāḥ, “delighted,” “overjoyed”), and this is how Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct, Cr interpret also. There is no need to assume joy on the part of the seers; prahṛṣṭa- in a negative sense (which its collocation with vyathita-, “trembled,” seems to necessitate) is attested elsewhere in the Rām (see above, 42.19, and 56.20 and note below), and cf. MBh 14.65.10.


“flew up into the sky” jagāmākāśam: Obviously there is a fundamental uncertainty, if not inconsistency, in the poet’s conception of the rākṣasa. He has emphasized the wonders of his aerial chariot repeatedly (cf. for instance 40.6, 49.14), and yet here Rāvaṇa is able to fly without it (Jaṭāyus has destroyed it [49.15] and Rāma is shortly to find it [60.32]; Bhoja has Rāvaṇa mount a second flying chariot, which just happens to be at hand, RāmāCam p. 195).


Cg explains the various implications of these verses: Sītā will remain in Rāvaṇa’s grasp only so long as lightning in a cloud (verse 13); Rāvaṇa will suffer for his taking hold of Sītā (verse 14); Rāvaṇa’s power will quickly crumble (verse 15); the copper cloud is like an omen presaging the death of Rāvaṇa [like the red clouds that appear at the end of a cosmic age].


“flashing from a storm cloud” saudāmanī: The phrase vidyut saudāmanī is formulaic; the second element is obscure. My translation derives from the lexicographically attested definition of sudāman as “cloud.”


With an insertion hereafter (1001*) the NE version recalls the garment, cream, and wreaths given Sītā by Anasūyā, remarking how they shone in the sky (see 2.110.17 and note).


“midday” ātape: So Cg. Cm, Ck, Ct, Cr gloss instead “‘half light’ [ā in the sense of īṣat], that is, twilight, for it is then that clouds take on a coppery color” (a meaning that is unattested).


“streaked with tears” vyapamṛṣṭāsram: Literally, “in which the tears have been (partly) wiped away” (so basically Cm, Ct, Cr; Cg, “with unceasing tears”; Ck, “with tears not wiped away”).

“quivering before” -samādhūtam: So Cg, Cr; contrast the more literal use of the verb in verse 25 below.


“star” kāñcī: Literally, “gleaming line, or, band.” Although the word is nowhere attested in this sense, the Dhātupāṭha (1.182-83) glosses kaci, kāci dīptibandhanayoḥ, and this is partially reflected in the D1 variant lekhā, “shining streak.” For a fuller analysis of the problem, and the impossibility of the traditional interpretation, see Pollock 1983.


“Fair as a lotus, golden hued” padmagaurī hemābhā: Cg attempts to distinguish the two epithets: “The first suggests her delicacy, the second the permanence of the hue of her complexion.”


“pure” vimalaḥ: Cg, Ck read instead sacapalaḥ, “flashing (with lightning).”


“A shower of blossoms” puṣpavṛṣṭiḥ: Ct here criticizes Ck, whom he reports (it is not found in the edition of Ck) as offering the interpretation that these flowers are rained down by the gods, in thanks that the Mother (Sītā) has fulfilled their wish (of allowing herself to be the catalyst for the destruction of the demons). Ct claims the gods could have no such power in the presence of Rāvaṇa, and that on the contrary these are the flowers Sītā is wearing, which Rāma will recognize later (60.17).


This verse appears to be out of place; several S manuscripts and commentators (Cm, Cg, Ck) read it after verse 22.

“fair” -raktā: Thus Cg (“the word is used simply in the sense of ‘colored’), not, as usually, ‘red’” (so Ck and Ct, who adds “red because of her deep anger”).


“Vaiśravaṇa’s younger brother” vaiśravaṇānujaḥ: “The repeated use of the phrase [see verse 26] is meant to suggest the utter impropriety of the deed and thereby intimate that retribution for it will be swift in coming,” Ct (heinous crimes must be paid for in this very life, see note on 28.8-9 above). For the poet’s skillful use of kinship terms, which encourages us to recognize a fundamental continuity (or discontinuity) of behavior in the people linked by the term, cf. the note on 2.72.1.


“when their … merit has been exhausted” kṣīṇāḥ: Abbreviated for kṣīṇapuṇyāḥ, as in 5.15.20 (similarly explained by Ck, Ct). After death, beings may attain the rank of stars by reason of the meritorious conduct (cf. 6.23.19); when their store of merit is exhausted, they must reenter the cycle of rebirth (apparently the popular explanation of shooting stars, see 2.106.11 and note).


“descending from heaven” gaganāc cyutā: The Ganges was brought down from heaven by Rāma’s ancestor Bhagīratha, see Bālakāṇḍa 41-42.


For an image similar to the one found here and in verse 35 see 2.40.28 and note (Rāma’s departure from Ayodhyā).


“sighs rising from their vaporous waters” jalocchvāsāḥ: I believe the crit. ed.’s gatotsāhām (“whose energy [to resist] is gone,” that is, “yielding”) to be an incorrect reading both on textual grounds (it is based only on the undistinguished manuscripts T1 and D6, and on Ct) and because of the contextual indications offered by verses 32 and 35. D4, whose reading I adopt, appears to preserve the truth, or something very like the truth; -ucchvāsa- itself, furthermore, is widely represented in the manuscripts. The commentators are divided: Cm is close to me, reading gatocchvāsāḥ, “(the rivers) ‘sighing’ from their seeing Sītā in such a plight”; so Ck, who glosses “whose life breaths have departed” (absurdly Ct, “because in fear of Rāvaṇa their waters have dried up”); Cg reads gatocchvāsām, “(Maithilī who had) fainted.”


“frightened little creatures” vitrastakāḥ: Not, I think, an otiose ka- suffix (so Cg, Ck, Ct), or a frequentive (Roussel 1910-1912, p. 45), but one signifying pity (by 5.3.76).


“defiant” manasvinīm: Manasvin is one of the more indeterminate epithets among the poet’s vast store. The signification I give it here (deriving from the radical sense “spirited”) gains support from 6.74.10 (see also 5.50.15, 16). Cg glosses “firm-hearted,” that is, faithful to her husband.

Sarga 51


“For didn’t you proclaim your name and conquer me in battle” viśrāvya nāmadheyaṃ hi yuddhe nāsmi jitā tvayā: An example of pure sarcasm such as this is rare in the Rām (Sītā repeats it, however, in 5.20.22). Rāvaṇa “proclaims his name” in 45.22 above (but not, of course, as a hero on the field of combat) and “conquers” Sītā “in battle,” but only against an old bird. The commentators do not carry the sarcasm into the second half of the verse (and so understand, “You did not proclaim … ”).


“you bragged about” tvayā kathitam: See 47.3ff. (so Cg).


“What can be done when you are fleeing so fast” kiṃ śakyaṃ kartum evaṃ hi yaj javenaiva dhāvasi: The hemistich refers back to verse 8: Rāvaṇa’s (claim to) courage is meaningless if he runs from a fight. (Such is essentially Cm’s second explanation).


“will send you to your destruction” vidhāsyati vināśāya: Contra Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct, “‘will make,’ namely, an effort, ‘to kill you’” (Cr, “will find a way”).


“object” vyavasāyena: “That is, to enjoy her sexually. The poet’s expression shows delicacy,” Cg.


“mortal” martyaḥ: The general sentiment of the line is formulaic and proverbial, and so we might not want to make too much of the use of “mortal” here. It may be, however, that it is precisely to the marginal defect in Rāvaṇa’s boon-won immortality that the poet wishes to draw our attention.


“on the point of death” mumūrṣūṇām: Compare note on 38.1. That simple futurity can in fact be the significance of the kṛt suffix u (cf. 3.2.168) is shown by 6.36.34 (this semantic aspect is covered by vārt. 1 [āśaṅkāyām] on 3.1.7).


“you must be seeing” saṃpaśyasi: The tense of the verb is probably truly present (cf. 45.33), in contrast to verse 18, where it is future (see verse 19). On seeing golden trees as a sign of imminent death, compare note on 45.33.


“Vaitaraṇī”; A river in hell.

“forest leafed with sword blades” khaḍgapatravanam: Cg takes this as a proper name of a particular hell.


“the prickly silk-cotton tree” śālmalīṃ tīkṣṇām: From the various descriptions of it, the tree seems like our common honey-locust. Cm, Ck, Ct call it a “torture tree,” and Cg remarks that one of the tortures to which Rāvaṇa shall be subjected in hell will be having to embrace such a tree, as a punishment for having embraced another man’s wife. In his tour of hell, the Mahābhārata hero Yudhiṣṭhira beholds, in addition to the sword forest and the river running with blood, the silk-cotton tree, which is called a “torture device for evildoers” (MBh 18.2.25).

Sarga 52


“five great monkeys” pañca vānarapuṃgavān: The exiled monkey-prince Sugrīva and his four companions (cf. 4.6.7ff.). Very deftly the poet here introduces the principal characters of the coming book.


“Lake Pampā”: This seems to be a lake, rather than a river or pond (cf. 69.5 below, and note on 5.16 above).


“shivered with delight” susaṃhṛṣṭaḥ: According to Cg, only after he was making for Laṅkā was Rāvaṇa “happy,” for up until then he traveled with one eye on Rāma’s ashram. Ct remarks, “Some commentators [e.g., Cm, see verse 29 below] explain that Rāvaṇa was ‘happy’ because he had [hereby] attained a means of death at the hands of Rāma; that without some egregious act of evil and, consequent upon it, the diminution of his merit, he could not bring about his death; and that, recognizing this, and being of a tāmasa behavior, he acted and spoke obscenely to Sītā, Mother though she is. But this interpretation does not accord with the poet’s words in verse 29, ‘In his delusion, the rākṣasa rejoiced; or with those in 53.1.”


“heaved” parivṛtta-: I agree with Cm; Ck, Ct, Cr understand, more or less, “ceased.”


“death in bodily form” rupiṇīṃ mṛtyum: It is rare that mṛtyu is feminine in gender, but see PW, s.v. 2 end.


“closely guarded” saṃrūḍha-: The commentators understand “crowded”; I suspect some confusion with saṃruddha-, as in HariVaṃ 96.62, saṃruddhau rakṣibhiḥ.


“as … Maya might deposit his demon magic” mayo māyām ivāsurīm: Maya is the preeminent asura architect and worker in magic (see 4.50.10ff.). The simile itself is odd in sense, but the alliterative wordplay and the apposite genders of the words (maya- being masculine, māyā feminine) mitigate this to some degree. (Cg, seeking to connect the simile with the story of Maya narrated in 4.50.9ff., explains, “Just as Maya, lord of the Triple City [to be distinguished, he tells us, from the architect of the asuras; see his comment on GPP 4.52.10-13], deposited the magically endowed woman [reading striyam for āsurīm] Svayamprabhā [an apsaras] in the cave,” although neither in the Rām version of the story nor in the purāṇic account mentioned by Cg [MatsyaP 140.80ff.] does Maya appear to do this.) Ct observes, “By this is suggested that it was the magical, illusory form of Sītā that went to Laṅkā, the real Mother having entered fire, as implied before” (43.34 and note).


piśāca women” piśācīḥ: The poet nowhere indicates that these creatures (which usually seem to be something akin to goblins) are in any way different from rākṣasas. The latter term is applied to them in verse 17 below.

“for such is my will” macchandato yathā: The -tas morpheme and yathā are tautologous (cf. 40.5, macchandād iva [bhāṣitam]). The commentators differ: Cm, “by virtue of my permission” (madanujñābalāt; or should we perhaps read madājñā-, “of my order”?); Cg, “‘as’ would be given to me ‘according to my will, desire’”; Ck, “‘in order that’ [yathā] she might be brought ‘under my will, control.’”


“the boon” vara-: See above, 30.17-18, and Introduction, Chapter 4b.


“unmarked by the eye” alakṣyadarśanāḥ: Either because of their speed (Cg), or their powers of invisibility (Ct). No further mention of these rākṣasas will be made in the Rām. (The episode is otherwise suspect; Bhoja has the demons sent prior to the abduction of Sītā, RāmāCam p. 187, where the commentator notes the discrepancy).


“to have obtained” upalabhya: So in agreement with Cm, Ck, Ct, Cr, since the slight redundancy with what follows (“to be holding,” literally, “having gotten”) is not uncharacteristic of the poet (Cg glosses, “to have seen,” a possible but unnecessary remedy).

“[and] to have incited” prasajjya … ca: Cg (endorsed by Venkatanathacharya 1965, p. 375 note) wants to interpret the conjunction, which I have left untranslated, concessively, “although (thereby) provoking.” But see Rāvaṇa’s words in verses 21-24, and above in sarga 34, especially verse 20 (and cf. verse 38.6): He wants not only to have Sītā in his possession but also to avenge Khara by killing Rāma.

Sarga 53


“Tortured … by the arrows of Kāma” kāmabāṇasamarpitaḥ: Possibly paranipāta (for samarpitakāmabānaḥ, though cf. 2.17.30), hence the many variants.


“his residence” tadveṣma: The women’s quarters, according to Cg. 4-5. “open sea … gusting winds” vāyuvegaiḥ … arṇave: “The winds are meant to represent her grief, the sea [water] her tears,” Ct.


According to Pax (1936, pp. 619, 621; cf. Liebich 1936, p. 33, who argues on the basis of Alberuni’s image of Rāvaṇa’s stronghold), the castle of Laṅkā was constructed like a maze or labyrinth (a point he invokes to tie in the tale with a variety of European romance). But I see little evidence in the poem itself for this judgment, beyond the more or less concentric construction of royal palaces in general (see 2.5.4 note).


“Drums … echoed” -dundubhinirhrādam: Cg wants the staircase itself to echo “like” a drum as they ascend it. But drums resounding in royal palaces is a commonplace of Sanskrit poetry (see, in the Rām, 2.34.36, 5.5.11).


“Myriads” sahasram: More often than not the word denotes merely a large number, “countless” as Ck sees (see also 2.2.6 and note). The other commentators predictably attempt various explanations for why this “thousand” does not stand in contradiction with the “thirty-two million.”


“perfect” sadṛśaḥ: See note on 16.22.

“how soon youth passes” yauvanaṃ hy adhruvam: Similar is the sentiment later expressed by Rāma: “I feel so sad, not that my love is far away, or because I am brooding on how she was taken from me. The one reason I am grieving is that her youth is slipping away” (6.5.5).


I agree with Cg, Ct in seeing this verse as a substantiation, an elaboration of the impossibility mentioned in the previous verse. Cr wants to link it to what follows.


“Let the waters of the royal consecration pour down upon you; reign in power” anupālaya / abhiṣekodakaklinnā: Rāvaṇa’s offer to consecrate Sītā as ruler of Laṅkā is peculiar enough to have motivated a variety of artificial interpretations on the part of the commentators (for example, Ck, Ct, “‘Let the waters’ of a pleasure bath ‘pour down upon you,’” to be construed with the last quarter verse; according to Cg, Sītā would share in the consecration ceremony only in the sense that she would be chief consort of the consecrated king). Although the queen’s participation in the rite of royal unction is nowhere indicated in the description of the ritual in the Ayodhyākāṇḍa, where Sītā plays no role, or in the vedic texts studied by Heesterman (1957), it is suggested by other passages in the Rām (6.38.6 and 14), and by the definition of “queen” given in AmaK 1.6.13 (devī kṛtābhiṣekāyām, “‘queen’ is defined as one who has been consecrated”). But it may be that Rāvaṇa is in fact offering her sovereignty. There are numerous historical precedents in ancient India for women holding royal power, and literary examples, as in the Solar Dynasty itself (see RaghuVa 19.55-57, though here it may actually be the unborn child carried by the queen whom it is intended to consecrate). Note also the interpolation discussed in note on 2.33.12.


All demerit acquired from past misdeeds must be expiated by suffering in some future life; once that demerit has been consumed, one may proceed to enjoy the pleasure earned from one’s past good deeds. (The parallel verse in the MBh [3.265.16] seems to be an imperfect recollection of the present passage.)


See note on 33.5ff.


“The feeling I have for you, my lady” devi niṣyando yas tvām abhigamiṣyati: In the main I follow the interpretation of Ck (Ct), and accordingly read devi (it has overwhelming manuscript support), for the crit. ed.’s daiva- (niṣyandaḥ), which seems pointlessly reiterative (“He who is coming to you is an offspring of the gods, of a seer” [thus the editors of the Mylapore edition], is implausible despite the parallel in MBh 3.265.14). Problems, however, remain. Niṣyanda- in the transferred sense (“outpouring” of emotion, “feeling,”) appears not to be attested elsewhere in the Rām, and indeed the one parallel I am able to find is contained only in the eastern recension of the HariVaṃ, bhāvaniṣyandaḥ (cf. the variants on 63.29). The force of the future also remains unexplained (although Rāvaṇa may merely be thinking of the long duration of his amorous feelings; Ck construes abhi closely with tvām [“affection for you”], and reads as the main verb bhaviṣyati, “will be [in accordance with the teachings of the vedas]”).

“sanctioned by the vedas” ārṣaḥ: One of the forms of marriage mentioned in the dharmaśāstras is the rākṣasa marriage, taking a woman by force (cf. ManuSm 3.33). This, Rāvaṇa seems to be asserting, is appropriate to him and so in accordance with dharma (see also 5.18.5; Ck, Ct are quick to point out that the śāstric precept applies to unmarried girls only, and Rāvaṇa’s defending his actions on such grounds only demonstrates all the more clearly how blinding is his lust). A different passage is cited by Cg, which lists the seven types of women who are permitted second marriages (see NāraSm 15.45), but this is less to the point.


This scene harks back to Book Two (10.40-41) when the lovesick and heartbroken Daśaratha bows down to touch his head to the feet of Kaikeyī. And as the abasement of Daśaratha before a woman (that is, his sexual immoderation) was rewarded with death, so too will Rāvaṇa’s.

“heads” śirobhiḥ: Contrast the singular in the next verse, and see note on 49.34 above.


“not (in vain does Rāvaṇa)” na cāpi (rāvaṇaḥ): The particles require us to carry over śūnya- as adverb from the previous line.

Sarga 54


“placing a straw between them” tṛṇam antarataḥ kṛtvā: It might not at first appear that the commentators’ concrete explanation is compelling, namely, that she interposed an actual straw between herself and Rāvaṇa, chaste woman that she was, in order to avoid speaking face to face with another man (Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct, Cs, Cr). But this is supported by Ctr on 5.19.3 with the following citation from the SkandaP, “A woman should never even hear the name of another man; and if she must unavoidably do such a thing as speak with him, she should interpose a straw between them,” and in his note on the parallel passage in Rām 5.19.3, Jhala (1966, p. 481) appositely adduces Bhāsa’s DūtVā 35.3, tṛṇāntarābhibhāṣyo bhavān, “You are a person to be addressed only through an interposed straw.” Alternatively we have an idiom, “without caring a straw” (that is, either for what he just said, or for the consequences of what she is about to say), perhaps literally, “putting a straw within” (that is, in the scales), for tṛṇa- is so often used elsewhere as signifying “worthless” (cf. Rām 5.56.71, tṛṇavat bhāṣitaṃ tāsāṃ gaṇayām āsa, “didn’t care a straw what they said,” or MBh 6.109.32. PW, s.v. antara- suggests “in her heart looking on him as a straw.”

Why does Rāvaṇa not simply force Vaidehī to make love to him, as he forced her to come to Laṅkā? Ck argues that Rāvaṇa is mindful of the curse upon him of his nephew Nalakūbara (in consequence of Rāvaṇa’s rape of the apsaras Rambhā, Uttarakāṇḍa 26, especially 43ff.; cf. note on 47.15 above) that Rāvaṇa would die if he ever again made love to a woman against her will (Ct notes, “and that is why Sītā here is said to be ‘unafraid’”). Ck continues, “And so Sītā was completely untouched, and after being upheld as such by all the gods, was in the end taken back by Rāma. Mother Vaidehī cannot be suspected of any breach whatever.”


“Their bodies” śarīram: The singular (as Cr also sees) has collective force (jātyekavacanam).


Sītā’s boasting of Rāma’s powers reminds one of nothing so much as Rāvaṇa’s boasting of his own (47.3 above).


“You shall lose” gata-: The past participle has again an aspect of immediate futurity (see note on 16.21 above).

Cg cites from smṛti: “One’s life, strength, fame, and wealth instantly perish when one molests another man’s wife” (untraced; cf. ManuSm 4.134).


“has divine powers” daivatasaṃyuktaḥ: I agree with Cg on this somewhat unusual phrase (Cm implausibly, “The fates are favorable to him”; many S manuscripts and Ck, Ct, Cr read devarasaṃyuktaḥ, “has my brother-in-law with him,” see verse 32); see also below, 66.11, devaprabhāva-, “who has the powers of a god.” See also the Introduction, Chapter 4d.


“harsh … that made her shudder with horror” paruṣaṃ romaharṣaṇam: The pāda is best taken with what follows rather than what precedes (so Cr); if Sītā spoke harshly (verse 20), so does Rāvaṇa (verse 23), and his speech is called “horrific” with more propriety than Sītā’s. (For a comparable construction see above, 46.1 and note there.)


Cg notes, “Sītā was abducted in the month of Caitra, since at the end of one year [to the month] Rāvaṇa is slain. Thus we conclude that Rāma stayed for three years in Pañcavaṭī. The description of late winter (sarga 15) must therefore be meant to indicate the particularly high degree of Rāma’s asceticism and does not signify [the time at which] Śūrpaṇakhā comes upon him.” Cf. above, note on 40.28cd-29ab.


“in grief” śoka-: In punning contrast to the aśoka (“griefless”) grove.


“beloved brother-in-law” dayitaṃ … devaram: Here there is no question that the poet is suggesting remorse on Sītā’s part (see 43.36, 47.23 and notes there).

Sarga 55


The NR inserts before this a sarga in which Brahmā explains to Indra that Sītā has entered Laṅkā for the good of the world; but lest she die in despair at Rāma’s not being able to find her, Brahmā dispatches Indra to her. Indra arrives in Laṅkā with Sleep, who overpowers the rākṣasa guards. Indra assures Sītā that Rāma will come with an army of apes and monkeys, and slay Rāvaṇa, and that he himself will offer aid. Indra gives her celestial ghee supplied by Brahmā, by which she will maintain her health. She asks Indra for assurances of his identity, and he reveals his divine characteristics to her. Sītā praises the god, and consumes the proffered ghee (App. I, No. 12).


“from rākṣasas who might devour her” rākṣasair bhakṣaṇaṃ vinā: The syntax was too obscure for the NR, which reads, “from the rākṣasas, without Lakṣmaṇa” (rakṣobhyo lakṣmaṇaṃ vinā).


“But what if Lakṣmaṇa” lakṣmaṇaḥ … yadi: On conditional clauses without apodosis, see Speijer 1886, p. 371.

“in imitation (of my voice)” (svaram) ālambya (māmakam): The reading of the crit. ed., ālakṣya, seems to me a clearly inferior variant, and one that is unconstruable, as the commentaries of Cm, Ct, Cr show. I accept the text of the NW, NE, and several S manuscripts (including Cg); see also 57.12, ālambya … svaram, and 57.25, svaram ālambya.


The syntactical structure here is somewhat loose, perhaps designedly so, to mirror Rāma’s distraught and worried thoughts; one senses a kind of breathless rushing together of Rāma’s ideas. The NR sought to normalize matters by rearranging the sequences of half verses.

“he turned back into a rākṣasarākṣaso ‘bhūt: I agree with Cg, Ck, Ct in taking the noun predicatively. A possible alternative: “(only when he had led me far off) was the rākṣasa (struck),” for the fact that primarily confirms Rāma’s suspicions seems to be that he could only slay the deer when he had been led far away this despite verse 19 below, the point of which is different).


“hearing … and thinking” śrutvā: The continuative construes by zeugma also with pāda c, as Venkatanathacharya also perceives (1965, p. 396 note; cintayan refers back to verses 4ff., and can hardly govern pādas cd here).


The verse describes some of the omens that are appearing (and that Sītā had wondered about earlier, 50.3-4).


“sweet as ever … harsh” madhurodarkam … paruṣam: My analysis agrees with Cm’s second explanation (“sweet in sound, but bitter in sense”); see also 50.40cd.


“has set out on her own” pathi vartate: That is, to look for Rāma herself (or perhaps, “has fled along the forest path”); contra Ck, Ct, “‘is on the road,’ that is, is in the process of being stolen away.”

Sarga 56


“for nothing” mithyā: Because without Sītā he will die there and never return (as is stated in the next verse). Possibly also, “(prove to be) false,” that is, unfulfilled, because he will have died in grief for Sītā before the completion of the term of his exile (so Cm and, essentially, Ck, Ct; see also 59.7).


“when you are out of the way” gate tvayi: Literally, “with you gone” (though surely not “dead”). There is no license to interpret “with you returned to Ayodhyā” with Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct (for Kaikeyī is well aware of Lakṣmaṇa’s close relationship with Rāma — compare 2.8.20, for example — as Venkatanathacharya points out, 1965, p. 400 note).

Cg comments, “Rāma had always felt that Kaikeyī sent him to the wilderness so that he would die, and this he reveals now, in light of the maxim, ‘We learn what people really feel by what they say when they are asleep, drunk, or angry’” (see 2.47.7 note and 2.52.17, and contrast above, 15.34-35 and notes there).


“dear brother” saumya [na]: The editor of the crit. ed. points out in an addendum that the reading saumyena “([wait on her] carefully, politely,” so Cm, Ck, Ct, “in the attitude of a slave”) is perhaps to be preferred (Bhatt 1963, p. 410).


“I fear what I am sure to find” śaṅke prāptavyam īdṛśam: That is, the loss of Sītā. Ck understands something like “‘I am aware that such sorrow must be experienced; in consequence of karma,” and like Ct interprets the utterance, erroneously I believe, as an expression of Rāma’s fortitude in suffering.


“hungry, tired, and thirsty” kṣudhā śramāc caiva pipāsayā ca: The instrumentals are upalakṣaṇe, as is the ablative, by attraction (Ct emends to instrumental).

This verse and the next anticipate and summarize the narrative of the next two sargas (so remarked also by Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct), a type of synoptic prefiguration of coming action (cf. 30.22 note). See further note on 57.1.


“‘It is so, then’” etad tad: Cv alone (citing “Others,” none of whom is extant) reports this (to my mind obvious) signification. The other commentators seem to have been misled by the presence of prahṛṣṭa(romā) (“his flesh began to crawl”), which again has a negative sense (cf. 50.11 and note); impossibly, thus, Cg, Ck, Ct, “his hair bristled (with delight when he recalled) ‘this and that’ (joy they shared) in their pleasure spots.”

“as he stood in their dwelling” nivāsabhūmau: Some verbal needs to be supplied; one alternative to the translation adopted, “he sank down upon the floor of their dwelling.”

Sarga 57


The story here recommences back in the forest, on the return journey toward the ashram (which the brothers will not reach until sarga 58). Although the type of prefiguration noted on 56.19 is not uncommon, this example is extreme, the chronology of the narrative being so emphatically violated. Nor are there any text-critical indications that this is not part of the authentic design of the work. It thus seems almost as if the poet so commiserated with the reader that he was reluctant to prolong the painful revelation of Rāma’s loss. In any case the speedy resolution of the drama does allow him to deal in a more detailed (and leisurely) fashion with the attitudes of the characters.

“from the ashram … their way back” āśramāt … antarā: Thus I translate the crit. ed. in accordance with the interpretation of Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct. Perhaps, however, the reading of the NR (+ M1), āśramam, is the correct one and to be explained as governed by antarā: “before [literally, between (the time they set out and)] the ashram was returned to.”


“(sank knowing) that the … evil (it feared) was true” (śaṅkamānaṃ) … pāpaṃ yat satyaṃ (vyathitam): The clause is elliptical; it is presumably reduced from yat pāpaṃ tat satyam iti vyathitam. This interpretation agrees basically with Cm (second gloss), but in general the commentators’ analysis here requires a far too complex and improbable syntax.


“My left eye has been throbbing” sphurate nayanaṃ savyam: A bad omen.


“good Lakṣmaṇa” lakṣmaṇaḥ śubhalakṣaṇaḥ: A standard alliterative epithet of the prince (see Pollock 1986, p. 50), it here exhibits a more pointed narrative character, reinforcing the impression of Lakṣmaṇa’s unimpeachable ethical behavior (Vālmīki often enlivens ornamental epithets into narrative significance, cf., for instance, 2.2.34 and note).


“for some reason” kiṃnimittam: Abbreviated metri causa for kiṃcinnimittam (so too in the opinion of Cm, Cg, Ct, Cr).

The immediate succession of two six-pāda ślokas is improbable; 12cd and 13ab should have been printed as a single verse.


“even if you bring about your brother’s death” vinaṣṭe bhrātari prāpte: The syntagma is equivalent to vināśe bhrātuḥ prāpte.


“waiting for Rāghava to give you an opening” rāghavasyāntaraprepsuḥ: Although the words do not actually appear in sarga 43, where Sītā rebukes Lakṣmaṇa, they provide retrospectively a moment of fine narrative artistry. These are the words used of Rāvaṇa (44.8), and thereby bitterly ironic: Sītā is ensuring the very disaster she seeks to avoid. This is an irony the poet strives for elsewhere in the scene (see note on 43.8).


“words that carried far” sudūrasaṃśravam … vacanam: I agree with Cr in construing the adjective thus, rather than with svaram (“voice”), as do Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct.

Sarga 58


Cg here notes, “The composition has up to this point treated of [the aesthetic topic] love-in-union; now begins the treatment of love-in-separation, which will continue up to the point when Rāma climbs Mount Suvela [Yuddhakāṇḍa 20ff., where presumably the aesthetic sentiment vīra, “heroism,” begins]. The other aesthetic sentiments dealt with in literature [wrath, terror, pity, etc.] are [also] depicted insofar as they are supplemental to love-in-separation. … Among the ten mental states of love-in-separation the eighth in particular, ‘madness,’ is what the poet will deal with in the next three sargas” On the interpretation of Rāma’s madness see the Introduction, Chapter 5.

Twitching in any part of the left side of the body, and tripping at the beginning of a journey, are evil portents.


“startled” udbhraman: Compare the use of the word in 37.17 and verse 33 below (Cm, Cg, “flying up”; Ct, “going about”).

“lurched forward” vikṣipan: The intransitive use of the verb appears not to be elsewhere attested.


“with the trees rustling, almost seemed to weep” rudantam iva vṛkṣaiḥ: Presumably it is the rustling of the trees that gives the ashram the sound of weeping. (Confusingly the commentators: Cg, “[it seemed to weep because] the bees [in the trees] had lost their voices” [?]; Ck, “the trees seemed to be weeping because they had lost their beauty, and so the cottage seemed to be weeping, too”).

“The flowers had faded, the birds and beasts had fallen still” mlānapuṣpamṛgadvijam: The zeugma is a rather hard one, but of a sort not without parallel (see notes on 27.6 and 55.10).


“afraid and hiding” nilīnā … bhīruḥ: As the adjective shows, the verbal cannot suggest playful hiding (as Cm, Cg wish it), in contrast to verse 23.


Here begins the mad search for Sītā, a magnificent scene that has inspired many great poets, notably Kālidāsa (Vikramorvaśīya Act 4), Bhavabhūti (Mālatimādhava Act 9), the composers of the Viṣṇupurāṇa (5.13.24ff., a significant improvement over the folktale treatment of the scene as preserved for us in the Brahmapurāṇa 189.22ff.), and — perhaps the finest adaptation of all — the Bhāgavatapurāṇa (10.30). It was presumably to such scenes as this that Hopkins was referring when he spoke of the “childish laments” of Rāma (1922, p. 264); the Indian tradition obviously did not see the matter that way. Besides the compliment paid by the adaptations already referred to, perhaps the most characteristic explicit evaluation of the emotional intensity the scene has had for Indian audiences is that made by the great playwright Bhavabhūti when he makes Lakṣmaṇa say, “The way my brother behaved, out of his senses when Janasthāna was left empty — it was enough to make a rock weep, to split a heart of adamant” (UttaRāC 1.28). See further remarks in the Introduction, Chapter 5.


“the look of a madman” unmatta iva lakṣyate: Cm remarks, “The particle expressing similitude is to be construed in every clause in this verse, as in the following, for in actual fact this is not a description of what really happens to Śrī Rāma. The lamentation for Sītā and all the rest is simply acting on the part of Rāma, in order to instruct people; and it is precisely to demonstrate this that the omniscient blessed Vālmīki here and there has employed words expressing similitude, in verse 4, for example, as well as here.” To corroborate his position Cm quotes from the Bhāgavatāpurāṇa (9.10.11ff.), on the didactic dimension of the scene of Rāma’s madness (see Introduction, Chapter 5). Ct cites the same passage, but in support of the view that the point of the present scene is to suggest “that of all things in the world one’s wife is the most beloved. That is why Rāma does not grieve as much when he is separated from his mother and father.” (Ck seeks to refute Cm’s interpretation, see notes on 59.1 and 60.38, and his editor asks the logically consequent question, why should people be taught to rave like a madman in such circumstances, rather than show firmness and calmness [Venkatanathacharya 1965, p. 412 note]). Cm adduces also the Umāsaṃhitā of the Skandapurāṇa, where Viṣṇu says, “‘I became the son of Daśaratha and slew Rāvaṇa in battle; and in my avatāra as Rāma I acted as if I were ignorant. Even the wise should not, because of māyā, entertain doubts about this. For I wanted to delude the rākṣasa with my māyā so that he would think me a man.’ Otherwise that [māyā] could never affect him [Viṣṇu] in any way.” Cm continues, “Furthermore, lamentation over diverse sorrows is a function of the belief that the body and so on constitute one’s Self, and such a belief is founded upon ignorance. It is utterly impossible to maintain that any trace whatever of ignorance — even by reason of a curse from the great Bhṛgu — could attach to Śrī Rāma, the supreme Lord, the superintendent of ignorance (māyā), the supreme soul whose corporeality consists of being, consciousness, and bliss, and who incarnated himself in the form of a man in order to bestow release on all people by way of their listening to these stories of his divine play. Therefore, all such things, his banishment and the like, were performed by Śrī Rāma only to instruct people. And these interpretive guidelines are to be applied to other portions of the poem.”


“Her breasts are as large as your fruits” bilvopamastanī: Cg cites the Ratirahasya to prove that this description of Sītā classifies her as the padminī or “lotus woman,” the finest among the various female types mentioned in the erotological textbooks.


“for how lush its vines appear, its shoots and blossoms” latāpallavapuṣpāḍyaḥ: None of the commentators really explains why this statement should justify the surmise of knowledge on the part of the kakubha tree. It must be either a general conceit — such flowering (which is often likened to horripilation) could only be the result of seeing the beautiful Sītā— or depend on the specific poetic convention that certain trees flower only when hugged or kissed by a beautiful woman (though I know of no example of the convention with regard to this particular tree).


The presence of the bees near the tilaka perhaps implies that the sweet Sītā must have passed near the tree (the commentators are silent).


Aśoka, ‘dispeller of grief’” aśoka śokāpanuda: The pun as at 54.31.


“rosy-golden glow” jāmbūnadaprabhā: The reading has only weak support. The NW (1124*) offers jambūphaloṣṭhī, “(her) whose lips are like rose-apples”; many S manuscripts, jaṃbuphalopamām, “who is like rose-apples” (Cv, “in point of hue”; Cm, Cg, “with respect to her smoothness, not hue,” the fruit of this tree being very dark; cf. McCann 1959, pl. 27).


Unlike the previous two verses this one posits no characteristic shared by Sītā and the tiger whereby the animal might recognize her; Cm, Cg do suggest that it is the similarity in their gait that is meant, but despite such later terms as śārdulavikrīḍitā (“the woman with the playful gait of a tiger,” used as the name of a particular lyric meter), I do not think that is meant here.

“you have nothing to fear” na te bhayam: Rāma means to say that he is not now out hunting, and so the tiger need not run from him. There is no reason to assume that he believes the tiger to have devoured Sītā and is here reassuring it that he shall not exact vengeance (so Ck, Ct in essence; Cm, Cg more improbably, “Rāma supposes that all the other creatures have refused to speak because they are afraid; but the tiger ‘has no fear’”).


“hiding” ācchādya ca: Although I leave it untranslated, I understand the particle ca as functioning concessively (with respect to pāda b, “I saw you, though you are hiding”).


“the only reason” hi: Cm, Cg, Ck read na instead (unrecorded in the crit. ed.), “(surely she would) not (ignore … ).”


“pale as the campaka flower” campakavarṇābhā: Literally, “the color of the campaka flower.” Those that I have seen are pale white (contrast Ingalls 1965, p. 481, “yellow-red”); Ct reads “the color of sandalwood cream.”


“compulsively” balāt: Literally, “by force,” that is, under the power of someone or something else (differently Cr, Ct, “that is, as if driven before the wind”; Cg’s interpretation of the verse as a whole is considerably different from mine: “‘In one place,’ that is, even where there was no similarity between the object and Sītā, ‘he was deluded,’ by the ‘impetus’ of grief, into thinking he saw her; ‘elsewhere,’ in vines and so on, he was similarly deluded ‘by the force’ of similarity [between the object and Sītā]”).

“wandering (like a madman)” (unmatta iva) bhrāntaḥ: So I read (with the NE, 1131*) for the crit. ed.’s (unmatta iv)ābhāti (“he seemed [like a madman]”). The variant construes reasonably with kvacit (“another [place]”), unlike the reading of the crit. ed. The triple anaphora of the verbal root bhram is not uncharacteristic of the poet (see notes on 2.25.2, 2.50.10).


“his hopes … remained unfulfilled” aniṣṭhitāśaḥ: Ck, Ct, Cr understand, “his hopes … not yet abandoned,” but see Ck, Ct on 5.5.37 (they gloss the word nirvṛtam, nivartitam); see also MBh 2.3.34.

Ct again notes, “This behavior is wholly imitative (on Rāma’s part) of the usual behavior of human beings; so much ‘darkness and passion’ [tamas, rajas] cannot be imputed to the Blessed One” (see above, note on verse 10).

Sarga 59


This sarga, according to Cg, illustrates the ninth stage of lovesickness, stupefaction (see 58.1 note). Ck remarks, “According to scripture, ‘A wife is half of oneself’ [TaiS], and so to be separated from a wife — especially one rich in treasures of every description — is nearly like losing half of oneself. The ‘darkness’ [tamas] generated because of this obscures the power of Rāma’s ‘purity’ and ‘passion’ [sattva, rajas], and so the search and lamentation naturally result. For no material body can anywhere come into being that consists of pure sattva or pure rajas” (he adduces BhagGī 18.40). See 58.10 note.


“enchanted by the forest” vanonmattā: Thus in basic agreement with Cm, Ct, Cr; Ck’s explanation strikes me as unlikely: “She has become a touch ‘mad from’ wandering in ‘the forest,’ and so has entered it without considering that it is a dangerous place.”


“fish … and … rushes” mīnavañjula-: The NW reads instead nīla-, “dark rushes,” perhaps with more propriety, as providing a reason why their vision might be obstructed.


“the mountain” śailam: Mount Prasravaṇa, cf. 29.21, 60.14 (thus too Cm, Cg).


“Bali”: The asura Bali had gained control of the three worlds, and Viṣṇu, after tricking him (by means of his dwarf incarnation) into giving him as much land as he could cover in three strides, traversed the whole universe, then bound the demon and cast him from heaven (contrast the parallel version noted on 2.12.8). The formulaic, ornamental quality of this kind of simile (see Pollock 1986, p. 38) is again revitalized by the narrative homologies, the correspondences (for the poet and audience, not of course for Lakṣmaṇa) in respect of the characters of the god(like) Rāma, the demonic Rāvaṇa, and the earth-born Sītā, and the very situation in which all three are found.


“tried … to comfort” sāntvayām āsa: Again the perfect has a conative aspect (see 43.36 note).

Sarga 60


Before this sarga the SR adds two additional sargas, devoid of any narrative interest but containing some attractive verses, including:

There must be no second person on this earth who has done such evil deeds as I [in former births], for grief upon grief, in an endless series, comes upon me and tears my heart and mind to pieces. … The loss of kingship, separation from my people, the death of my father, separation from my mother: Each time I think about these things they fill me anew with grief. All these sorrows were assuaged when I came to the lovely forest; but separation from Vaidehī has rekindled them all, as a fire flares up when another log is added.” (App. I, No. 13, lines 51-54, 59-66).

The NR inserts within the verse some lines in which Rāma addressed Śakra, complaining that Sītā has left him at the very time a young man should enjoy his wife, that the ashram has the look of a city when a festival has ended, etc. (1153*).

Ct again (see notes on 29.20 and 58.35) remarks that Rāma’s show of grief, which Rāvaṇa would hear about from his spies, meant to confirm to Rāvaṇa that Rāma is a man, and so to bring about the demon’s death.


“and Vaidehī’s mother” mātaraṃ caiva vaidehyāḥ: Probably Janaka’s “favorite queen” (2.110.32), who nurtured the earth-born Sītā.


“the support of all my kinsmen” jñātipakṣa-: I agree with Cg in understanding the compound as a karmadhāraya (“kinsmen who are my supporters”); Cr takes it as a dvandva, “kinsmen and supporters.”


“the Godāvarī”: The SR reads “Mandākinī” (so the NW here and throughout the sarga), which is strange, since that is the river flowing along the slope of Mount Citrakūṭa (cf. 2.86.10-11 and note).

Hereafter the NR adds a speech by Lakṣmaṇa, in which he tells Rāma that Sītā is in none of these places, that he must be strong and realize she has disappeared (1160*); the SR inserts a passage in which Rāma, seeing the animals looking as though they wish to tell him something, asks them where Sītā is, whereupon all of them point south. Lakṣmaṇa reads their meaning and urges Rāma to strike out in that direction. Rāma agrees and sets forth, examining the ground along the way (App. I, No. 14).


An interpolation after the first line here in the SR (1163*) is in fact a verse from Kālidāsa’s Vikramorvaśīya (4.51). It runs as follows: “Rāma spoke … : ‘Leader of all earth-supporters [that is, mountains] [sarvakṣitibhṛtām, sic leg.], has the beautiful woman been seen, left by me … by you.’” By reason of the pun and the two equally possible syntactic constructions, the same lines can be understood first as a question asked by Rāma (“Have you seen the woman I left … ”), and then as an echo taken as the answer of the mountain (“Leader of all earth-supporters [that is, kings], the woman left by you has been seen by me”). But since the mountain refuses to say anything further, Rāma justifiably grows angry in pādas cd.

“puny deer” kṣudramṛgam: According to Johnston (1928-1932, p. 143) the compound often means “beast of prey” (that is, kṣudra- for krūra-, “which are used interchangeably in the epics”), though I find little in the Rām to corroborate this view. Here such a signification is evidently less appropriate.


“impressed upon” niṣkrāntam: Literally, “(footprints) stepped out upon” (a karmaṇi prayoga); contrast in verse 23, parikrāntam (a bhāve prayoga; thus, in both cases, Cg).


In an NR insertion hereafter Rāma reasons that the rākṣasa must have flown through the air, since no tracks of his arrival or departure are to be seen, and in despair he asks in what direction he is now to proceed (App. I, No. 15.24-27).


“have wantonly butchered”: The line contains one of the epic’s great alliterations (technically a lalitānuprāsa): bhittvā bhittvā vibhaktā vā bhakṣitā vā bhaviṣyati. See the note on 2.20.32 for comments on the poet’s propensity for verbal ornamentation at moments of high drama (also 24.25 note above).

“wantonly butchered” bhittvā bhittvā: On the āmreḍita here as indicating intensity, see vārt. 6 (though this is normally restricted to imperatives) or 7 on 8.1.12.


“battle standard” samaradhvajaḥ: The compound (glossed as “a standard indicating the commander in battle,” Cg, Ck, Ct, Cr) I construe as bahuvrīhi with rathaḥ (with Ct, Cr, contra Cm, Cg).


“shafts” viśikhāḥ: Rather than as a noun standing in apposition, as I understand it, this may be adjectival (“blunted,” so Cm, Cg).

“long as chariot axle” rathākṣamātrā: According to Cm (who cites the Śilpapraśna), four hundred aṅgulas, or about twenty-five feet.

“to do their terrible work” ghorakarmaṇaḥ: I take this as nominative plural and modifying śarāḥ (metri causa for -karmānaḥ, see 37.12 and note, 420*.3, and Michelson 1904, pp. 113-14). Otherwise, “[To what being] of terrible deeds.”

Hereafter the SR adds a verse (1176*) in which Rāma sees Rāvaṇa’s dead charioteer (see 49.15 note).


“her righteousness no defense at all” na dharmas trāyate: Lakṣmaṇa will say the same thing to Rāma in 6.70.14ff. Cm remarks, “The proverb, ‘In times of trouble dharma saves’ had no application on this occasion.”

After this verse the NR adds, “When a man has always kept to dharma, and dharma’s bulwark does not protect him [in times of trouble], then the man’s spirit is broken, Saumitri, and he [is prone to] become an atheist” (1179*).


“who in this mortal world — or which god — has thought it possible to injure me” ke hi loke ‘priyaṃ kartuṃ śaktāḥ … mameśvarāḥ: Rāma is blaming his tragedy on someone’s reckless underestimation of his power. We must read [a]priyam in pāda c (so Crā, Cg, Ck; though there would, presumably, be no perceptible difference during oral delivery). The verse will otherwise make no sense with respect to the argument advanced in verses 37-39. Moreover, I believe this emendation to be substantiated by 61.11 below, nālaṃ te [devādayaḥ] vipriyaṃ kartum (“[the gods … ] would no more do you an injury”; see also 18.4 for a similar sentiment). Cm, reading with the crit. ed., explains, “No god can do him any ‘kindness’ [priyam]; if the gods had been able they would have offered protection before Sītā had been abducted, and therefore, obviously, they are incapable.” The gods could not be of help, Ct notes, because they are ineffectual in a matter that cannot be achieved by dharma (see the previous verse). One other interpretation, suggested by an N version (App. I, No. 15.16-18): if Sītā is dead, nothing any god might do or give could assuage Rāma’s grief and anger — any act of kindness, as Venkatanathacharya notes, would be as useless as watering a tree after cutting it off at the roots (1965, p. 444 note).


The śāstric principle at issue here is set forth in the rājadharma section of the MBh: the king must steer a middle course between leniency and cruelty (12.56, especially verses 21, 37-40), and this, it seems, is precisely one of the lessons that Rāma shall have to learn in the remainder of the poem. (See for instance 6.14.11, when Sāgara fails to appear; and cf. Lakṣmaṇa in 2.18.11, with Rāma’s response, 2.18.36, etc.).

“the very master of the worlds” kartāram api lokānām: Literally, “maker of the worlds.” The optative in pāda c shows the statement to be a supposition, and not a direct reference to Rāma (one is therefore reluctant to follow Bhatt in believing that “Rāma calls himself the ‘creator of the worlds’ evidently on account of mental disturbance,” 1963, p. 411; similarly improbable Ck, Ct, who understand this to be a reference to Śiva, the “‘maker,’ that is, of the destruction, ‘of the worlds’”). It may be that we are to understand the phrase in the sense of “(a hero,) the very maker of his people”; cf. MBh 12.92.8, “A king is the very maker of beings (kartā bhūtānām) as well as their destroyer: a maker if he is righteous, a destroyer if he is not.”


Ck here reasons as follows: “Objection: How can a feel resentment toward the gods [as Rāma does here] when he ought rather to worship them? Answer: Precisely because Rāma entertains no notion that he is in fact a man. Objection: If then he knows he is a divinity, he must consequently have [and know that he has] omniscience, whereby he should know precisely what is happening with Sītā; all this lamentation then becomes unnecessary. Answer: He knows absolutely that his real self is brahma, for three reasons: his knowledge of his own superhuman power was validated by way of his own experience, when he destroyed Khara and the others; second, he has the firm conviction that he himself is a portion of the energy of the glorious, primordial world-cause, brahma, by means of inference, through the principle that ‘whatever creature is powerful, glorious, or vigorous, you must understand to have arisen from a portion of My energy’ [BhagGī 10.41]; and finally, by way of the reasoning that if he really were human, he could in no way deviate from the conditions of the human beings he sees about him. Nonetheless, since Rāvaṇa cannot be slain by a god, the reason for Rāma’s avatāra would be frustrated [if this self-knowledge of Rāma’s were generally known] and so, to achieve his purpose, it is the wish of the Blessed One to veil, by the force of ‘darkness’ [tamas], the fact of his being brahma, and having all the traits, omniscience and the like, that pertain to brahma. On this reasoning, everything that the poet has said so far, and will say, makes perfect sense.”


“I will efface it” saṃhṛtyaiva: The clause is syntactically problematic. A direct object (that is, the virtue, compassion, for which the cool moonlight is the upamāna or standard of comparison) must be supplied; at the same time we must understand the gerund either as a main verb (cf. note on 2.18.32), as I have done, or supply another (as the SR attempts to do, in 1181*).


Something like trailokyaṃ … kariṣyāmi (cf. 1184*) must be understood with the eight bahuvrīhis of which these two verses consist.

“paralyze both fire and wind” vipranaṣṭānalamarut: I follow Cr in taking the second element as a dvandva. Or perhaps we should simply understand the compound as a variant on caṇḍavāta, “raging wind” (cf. MBh 6.67.6).


In an SR insertion hereafter (1191*) Rāma, compared to Rudra when he destroyed the Triple City, girds up his loins, takes his bow from Lakṣmaṇa, affixes an arrow, and speaks verses 51ff.


“Unless” purā … yadi na: A sort of tautology, literally, “if not before” (see PW, s.v. purā 3; somewhat comparable is MBh 3.281.98). Alternatively, we may analyze puras iva (standing for eva which is actually read in a number of S manuscripts), with double sandhi (though compare Michelson 1904, p. 102, who records only one such instance), “(show … ) right before my eyes.” Quite differently the commentators: “‘(show me Sītā bright-smiling) as before,’ that is, smiling as she did when she asked Rāma to catch the deer,” Cg; “unweeping (ca arudatīṃ) as before,” Cr; Ct appears to agree with both of them. Cg here cites Hanumān’s later words, “If, for the sake of this woman, Rāma were to lay the earth to waste, all the way to the sea, I would think it more than just” (5.14.13).

Ct here comments, “How can Rāma be so angry, what is the purpose [of this passage]? This is imitation of human behavior insofar as he is at present possessed of a human body. Then too, if at such a time of sorrow he were to show no anger, Rāvaṇa would think him not to be human [read ‘manuṣyabuddhim], and so it would not be possible to destroy him [read ‘śakyaḥ].”

Sarga 61


“sought to slay the victim” hantukāmaṃ paśum: A kind of synecdoche, perhaps, for “destroy the sacrifice.” According to O’Flaherty, “The sacrifice which Rudra pierces or burns with his glance is personified as the sacrificial animal” (1973, p. 128, citing TāṇMaBr 7.9.16). (The vulgate reads instead, “burn the whole world.”) For the exclusion of Rudra (Śiva) from the primeval sacrifice of Dakṣa, his father-in-law, and his subsequent disruption of it, see note on 23.27 above.


“glory” yaśaḥ: Rāma’s “grandeur, glory” is a function of, and so nearly synonymous with, his righteousness, particularly his always rendering just punishment (cf. below, verse 9 note), and to this the injustice of his present undertaking — to destroy the whole world because of the crime of one creature — stands in sharp contradiction. (To clarify this train of thought is the function of the SR insertion appearing hereafter, “You must not destroy the worlds because of the crime of one,” 1196*). Verses 6-8 are interposed to show that only one creature is responsible for Sītā’s disappearance, the conclusion being contained in verse 9. (Cm, Cg, Ct, Cr, wrongly I believe, understand here, “ — all this is constant (immutable) in you, as well as … ”)


“must … have … ended” nivṛtta-: The reading has the support of Crā, but perhaps more attractive is the widely attested variant nirvṛtta-, “must have taken place.”


“not two” na dvayoḥ: See 60.27. Lakṣmaṇa’s reasoning is, somewhat illogically, subordinated to the main point he wishes to make in verse 9. He sees only one chariot and set of equipment, and so concludes that only one rākṣasa was involved. The fact that no “great army” (this must be the meaning of balasya mahataḥ) appears to have been present does not, however, support his argument, for there is no reason why rākṣasas should always duel with vast army contingents in attendance. One must wonder, therefore, whether the oldest manuscript, Ñ1, has not preserved the correct reading, parasya: “( … not two … for I do not find any footprints left by) another great [sc., rākṣasa].” (This is not supported, however, elsewhere in the NR; both Gorresio [3.70.12] and Lahore [3.71.12] support the crit. ed.)


Ctr here cites ManuSm (8.128): “A king who punishes the innocent and fails to punish the guilty incurs great infamy, and goes to hell.”


The verse refers back to the argument made by Rāma in 60.36.

“would” alam: Cm attributes to the word its common signification, “able to,” but how this would fit with the simile I cannot see (for what is at issue there is the will to injure, not the ability, though see below).

“the pious” sādhavaḥ: That is, according to Cm, Cg, Ck, priests. An injury in the case of a consecrant would be an act of black magic, like a curse (“or, making the rite defective,” Ct). Cm quotes scripture to show that they not injure him: “No grief, no bewitching can take hold of him” (untraced).


“your majesty” rājan: Although removed by the NR, the reference to Rāma’s actual kingship (which is likely the reference here) is supported by other allusions in the Araṇyakāṇḍa (see for instance above, 28.10 note).

“and the supreme seers to help us” sahāyaiḥ paramarṣibhiḥ: “Those in the forest,” says Cg, but the reference remains puzzling; the seers will neither help nor even accompany Rāma. This may perhaps simply imply a generalized moral support: The virtuous are on Rāma’s side, and so he need not destroy the worlds.


“the thirty gods do not restore” na … pradāsyanti … tridaśeśvarāḥ: “Since it is self-evident that, whether dead or alive, Sītā cannot fail to be somewhere in the three worlds, the lords of the three worlds must, self-evidently, be able to ‘restore’ her,” Ck.


“by peaceful means” śivena: The reading of the crit. ed., śīlena, I find to be meaningless here, and accept in its place the variant reported by all but the S commentators (though it is probably no indication they eliminated it for ill-founded sectarian reasons that Cg here remarks, combating some interpretation no longer extant, “Only an idiot would infer, from the description of Lakṣmaṇa’s calming Rāma’s anger, that it is Śiva’s intention — the god having been propitiated by Rāvaṇa and become his partisan — that Rāma’s anger be assuaged”).

Sarga 62


“brought about you(r birth)” āsīl labdhaḥ: The third singular verb is appropriate, since bhavān would be understood (as in verse 6; thus Cr).

“great mortifications and a great sacrificial rite” mahatā tapasā … mahatā cāpi karmaṇā: The rite is described in Bālakāṇḍa 11-15; the mortifications are not elsewhere explicitly referred to.

“like the immortal gods obtaining the drink of immortality” amṛtam ivāmaraiḥ: The gods obtained nectar only after the great effort of churning the Milk Ocean (cf. note on 45.35 above).


“became a god” devatvam āpannaḥ: That is, he died (for the idiom see note on 2.98.49).


On the paradigmatic dimension of kingly behavior see for instance 48.8 and note above and, for the locus classicus, BhagGī 3.21. Ct remarks, “The purpose of Rāma’s avatāra includes instructing people, as the Bhāgavata states, ‘His avatāra as a mortal was intended to instruct mortals’” (5.19.5).


Venkatanathacharya offers another explanation of the verse: If Rāma can find respite from grief only in destroying the worlds, how are weaker people, when similarly pained, to find respite (1965, p. 456 note)? This is perhaps more appropriate to Lakṣmaṇa’s argument, though somewhat less naturally indicated by the language.

Before or in place of this verse several S manuscripts read, “Take heart, best of men. What mortal never meets with troubles? Like fire they touch one a moment, but then the next are gone” (1200*), an interpolation called forth to elucidate the “way of the world” — that is, the inevitability of suffering — mentioned in verse 7.


“Yayāti, son of Nahuṣa”: Yayāti’s “misfortune” consisted in pride, which caused him to fall back again to earth (cf. notes on 2.11.1 and 5.9). (For Cg the locution “son of Nahuṣa” suggests the story of Nahuṣa himself, whose pridefulness caused him to be cursed to live as a snake [cf. MBh 3.177]; for Ct, a further implication here is this: The verb used in the verse, “touched” [samaspṛśat], indicates merely brief contact, and this suggests that Rāma’s own sons [like Yayāti’s, see note on 2.71.10] will without delay remove his later sorrow [over the second “loss” of Sītā].)

“misfortune” anayaḥ: As in verse 12 below (see note on 2.8.14, and contrast 2.20.5 and note).


“A hundred sons were born to him in a single day, but all of them were later killed” ahnā putraśataṃ jajñe tathaivāsya punar hatam: The sons of Vasiṣṭha were slain by Viśvāmitra (by a curse in the Rām version, cf. 1.58, especially verses 18ff.; by means of a rākṣasa in the MBh, 1.166). The particle tathaiva appears to function concessively (“He was given this great blessing and yet … ”), not that the sons were slain “the very day” they were born, which is nowhere mentioned.


“the two eyes of the universe” jagatāṃ netre: In the great revelation at the end of Book Six, the sun and moon are said to be Rāma’s eyes (6.105.7), as, in his theophany, they are said to be Kṛṣṇa’s (BhagGī 11.19, and cf. MBh 6.61.54).

“upon which everything is founded” yatra sarvaṃ pratiṣṭhitam: Insofar as, in the Indian tradition, the sun is the ultimate cause of rain, the moon the progenitor of crops (so Cg, though perhaps overly clever).


“destiny” daivasya: Literally, “the divine,” which makes the paradox of the gods succumbing to destiny even sharper. Note too how contrary these sentiments are to those expressed by Lakṣmaṇa in 2.20.10ff. Consistency in the world view of the individual characters is here, rather untypically, subordinated by the poet to narrative exigency.

“(other beings), men of flesh and blood” (sarvabhūtāni) dehinaḥ: The latter item is epexegetical, as in pādas ab devāḥ is to bhūtāni. (Those commentators who try to avoid the absurd in the explanation here fall into the solecistic, as Ct, who would take dehinaḥ as a neuter plural, a form for which there is no evidence, in the epics at least).


“misfortune … good fortune” nayānayau: See verse 7 note above (accepting the second sense of the word the commentators gloss “‘folly … wisdom,’ that is, the sorrow and happiness deriving from these”).


“lost” naṣṭāyām: That this is without question the sense of the verb in this passage is shown by the juxtaposition vinaṣṭābhakṣitā in 55.17 (an opposition preserved here in Dt[l], D6, and most of the NE version, naṣṭāmṛtā); observe that in 63.21 the word is used even when it is known that Sītā has only been abducted (see also 5.33.53 for a particularly clear example of this sense of the verb).


“see things as they truly are” satyadarśinaḥ: Compare Bharata’s words in 2.98.42-43.

“(their sight remains) unclouded” anirviṇṇa(darśanāḥ): Literally, “undiscouraged” (the concrete sense appears in 37.2).


“distinguish right from wrong” vijānanti śubhāśubhe: The phrase is ambiguous: do the wise thereby distinguish or understand “their merit and demerit” (Cm), “the good and ill that are to come” (Cg), “what is proper and improper, what they should and should not proceed to do” (Ck, Ct)? I am inclined to accept the last, for the burden of Lakṣmaṇa’s discourse is to dissuade Rāma from wholesale destruction and to urge him to find and kill the single perpetrator.


“Without doing this, without carefully weighing an action” adhṛtānāṃ ca karmaṇām nāntareṇa kriyām: According to the commentators (Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct, Ctr), this verse concerns karma in the technical sense (though I do not know that the word occurs in this sense in the poem): Without the previous performance of karma its fruit would not come about, and so, because one is ultimately responsible for one’s misery, one must put up with it. But this interpretation does not satisfactorily account for the use in pāda a of -guṇadoṣa- (“the arguments for and against it”), a phrase generally used in the Rām with regard to contemplated action (see, for example, 33.2 above, 6.6.10); at the same time it leaves iṣṭam (“desired”) in pāda d unexplained and is contextually meaningless. The true crux here is pāda c, which is otiose or whose only function is to overdetermine the message of pādas ab. One might perhaps suspect here an old corruption, for (nāntareṇa) dhiyām, “(The desired result of action is never attained without) forethought (without weighing)” (compare, in a very similar context, MBh 3.33.25, dhiyā dhīro vijānīyāt).


“your powers, which are as much divine as human” divyaṃ ca mānuṣaṃ caivam ātmanaś ca parākramam: I agree with Ck, Ct, Cr on this, the most natural construction of the line (the ca in pāda b is conjunctive between verses 18 and 19, and those in pāda a mean “both … and”); the bivalence of Rāma’s power is elsewhere noticed (see above, 54.14 and the Introduction, Chapter 4d). Cm, Cg explain quite differently, however: “‘Have regard for the celestial and the human, and [be aware of] your own powers,’ that is, Rāma should slay only his enemy, not the celestial creatures and men on earth, and he must realize, too, that he has the power to slay them all.”

“those who have shown their hatred of you” dviṣatām: The NR variously offers the singular.

Sarga 63


“(search … ) through Janasthāna” janasthānaṃ … anveṣitum: From 58.34, 60.14ff., and similar passages, Rāma would appear to have already searched Janasthāna. Many N manuscripts accordingly offer “(search) again.”


“gorges” nirdarāḥ: For the sense of this uncommon word, see 2.79.19 note.


“carefully” yuktaḥ: Or, “armed” (so Cm, Cg).


“razor-headed” kṣuram: See Belvalkar 1947, p. 789 (so basically Cg, Ck; “razor-sharp,” according to Cm, Ct, Cr).

After this verse the oldest manuscript, Ñ1, reads 60.28-33; cf. verse 17 and note below.


“illustrious” mahābhāgam: Literally, “greatly fortunate.” Is this epithet vacuously ornamental, or is it supposed to suggest the nobility and grandeur of Jaṭāyus’s death (“because he had given up his life in the cause of his master,” Cg)? The NR and several S manuscripts eliminate it, substituting “massive” or “with severed wings.”


As noted on 48.1, the Mahābhārata does not introduce Jaṭāyus until the fight with Rāvaṇa. When Rāma comes upon him nearly dead, he must therefore identify himself (3.263.17). In our version, Rāma oddly does not recognize the vulture, something that would make more sense given the MBh’s narrative chronology (though we should recall that when Rāma first meets Jaṭāyus in 13.2 he also takes him for a rākṣasa, and moreover, he is at present half mad).


“in a desolate, most desolate” dīnadīnayā: On the semantic function of the repetition, see note on 60.26.


“and long may you live” āyuṣman: Again Vālmīki breathes narrative life into a dead epithet (compare for example kāmarūpin in 60.34 above): Since Rāma is searching for Sītā as if she were a “healing herb,” “may you live long” takes on the suggestion “may you find her.”


“This … bow” etad … dhanuḥ: Unless Rāma has carried all this equipment with him to where Jaṭāyus is lying, the vulture must be near the equipment (he points to it, etad). One wonders then why Rāma did not see him when he first saw the bow and the rest in 60.28ff. (see above verse 8 note).

“shield” śarāvaram: See De 1958, p. 1145.


“(gasping for breath) … in that trackless, inaccessible place” ekāyane durge (niḥśvasantam): Ck, reading kṛcchre (for durge), explains, “‘(his breathing) is difficult, [going] in one direction only,’ that is, out.” According to 50.1 Jaṭāyus falls to the ground “not far from Rāghava’s ashram.”


“this bird slain” hato dvijaḥ: The NR reads instead “my father dead,” but clearly this is a revision (perhaps out of a misplaced sense of filial piety), for the loss of a parent lacks the aspect of unforeseeable contingency exhibited by the other calamities.

On the first half of the verse Cg comments as follows: “Even though debarred from the kingship, Rāma might have been allowed to live as a mendicant in the kingdom [cf. 2.38.4], but that was denied him (‘living in the forest’); even though living in the forest, to be with loved ones would have brought happiness, but that was denied him (‘Sītā lost’); even though separated from loved ones, one might be able to bear the grief in the company of friends, but that too was denied him (‘this bird slain’).”


I believe the verse to be an allusion to a general proverbial sentiment (everything goes wrong for the luckless man; when it rains, it pours; “When sorrows come, they come not as single spies, but in battalions”; Venkatanathacharya cites an Indian one, “The ocean reaches no higher than the knees of an evil man” [1965, p. 464 note], though this seems less applicable). Additionally it plays upon the later problem of Rāma’s trying to cross the ocean to get to Laṅkā (6.13-15). (The commentators suggest, unpersuasively, “‘enter,’ or, ‘swim in’ the ocean, in order to soothe the fire of grief,” Cm, Cg, Ck.)

Sarga 64


“(Saumitri,) his staunchest friend” (saumitriṃ) mitrasaṃpannam: Literally, “who had become his friend” (so basically Cr; see PW, s.v. sam + pad); the epithet is employed principally for alliteration. The commentators suggest, “[‘Endowed with friends,’ that is,] a friend to all people” (so Cm, Ck, Ct), or, with paranipāta, “wholly friendly to Rāma” (Cg), and I draw on the latter to some extent for the translation.


“though … his voice has failed” tathā svaravihīnaḥ: I am not wholly certain whether tathā should, or can, be taken concessively. Perhaps we should read tāthāsvara-, “likewise his voice had not yet failed (and he is gazing up, [though] vacantly).”


Rāma has a short memory, having apparently forgotten his encounter with, and mutilation of, Śūrpaṇakhā, who identified herself as the sister of Rāvaṇa (16.19 above). This point was also made by Goldman and Masson 1969.


“(what) feats (has he accomplished)” (kiṃ)karmā: This corresponds to prabhāvam in 67.20 below, “(the full extent of his [Rāvaṇa’s] power)”; contra Cg, Ck, Ct, who seem to understand, “What did he do” when he took Sītā.

Rāma here speaks very like Rāvaṇa in 32.2. It is clear that neither has ever heard anything of the other.


“he worked a prodigious magic of winds and storms” māyām āsthāya vipulāṃ vātadurdinasaṃkulām: That is, presumably, Rāvaṇa raised the wind and darkened the sky in order to hide himself (see 6.67.24, where his son Indrajit does something similar).


“My breath is coming harder” uparudhyanti me prāṇāḥ: Note the passive stem with active termination.

“the golden trees” vṛkṣān sauvarṇān: See above, 45.33 note.

“spikenard” uśīra-: The precise signification of the reference is obscure, though it may be observed that spikenard is used in rites for the dead (a paste of it being smeared on the corpse, which is also draped with a garland of the blossoms, cf. Kane 1962-1975, vol. 4, p. 202), and thus carries funereal connotations.


“the hour called Vindavindo nāma muhūrto ‘sau: Cm, Cg (so too Ct) etymologize the name, “in this hour one finds [vindate] lost wealth.” According to Cm, it is the eleventh of the fifteen muhūrtas (an “hour” of forty-eight minutes) of the day. See note on 2.83.21. Cm remarks that Vinda is another name for Vijaya (the hour of “Victory,” though according to 6.4.3 Vijaya is noon), or a ghaṭikā (a smaller measure of time) so named. Ctr appears to understand the word generically, as bindu (“a moment”?), and like Cm notes that an act done at such a time (he lists the various moments, citing the Gauli section of the Utpalaparimala) produces for the agent just the opposite of what he intended — in the case of Rāvaṇa, death. According to the SkandaP (, Sītā was abducted at the hour called Vṛnda (sic), on the eighth day of the dark fortnight of Māghā.

“he was unaware” nābudhat: An a-aorist, as Ct, Cr also take it, rather than irregular imperfect (so Cg, followed by Bhatt 1963, p. 411).


“himself” sākṣāt: Cg, Cr join the word closely with putraḥ, “the lawful son.” The rest of the information about Rāvaṇa, lost in aposiopesis here, will be supplied by Jaṭāyus’s brother Sampāti, who completes the line, “and his name is Rāvaṇa, the rākṣasa who inhabits the city of Laṅkā” (so noted also by Cg; some eastern manuscripts, seemingly out of unendurable commiseration with Rāma, actually add here, “the overlord of Laṅkā, on an island in the southern sea,” 1238*).


Cm, asking how Jaṭāyus could have survived so long after Rāvaṇa’s fatal blow, replies that it is a result of Sītā’s favor, and cites the SkandaP [untraced], “The queen told me I would remain alive, lord of kings, until I had the chance to talk with you.”


“born a long time ago” cirakālasamutthitaḥ: Ck, Ct, Cr support the translation; Cg glosses, “had enjoyed prosperity for a long time.”


This does not mean that Jaṭāyus somehow abdicated his kingship (see 48.19 and note) when he offered protection to Sītā (13.34). The verse simply contains a slight, and characteristic (cf. note on 24.24 above), hysteron proteron: the bird gave up his life and in so doing “relinquished the kingship,” the inversion perhaps indicating that, in a sense, kingship would have been the greater loss.


“even among the animals” tiryagyonigateṣv api: This certainly hints at the events to be narrated in the coming book, Rāma’s alliance with the monkeys.


Ct tries to soften Rāma’s statement here: “In essence he means that [his grief is greater in Jaṭāyus’s case] because there is still a chance to recover Sītā, but none to recover Jaṭāyus.” Jaṭāyus, moreover, is like a father (cf. 63.25, 64.26 and 33 below, and RaghuVa 12.56), and thus irreplaceable (whereas one can always get another wife, and one as good as Sītā, as Rāma himself will say later when Lakṣmaṇa’s life is endangered, 6.39.6; see also 6.2029*.5-6).


“may you go (to the state) … may you proceed to the highest of worlds” gaccha … lokān uttamān … vraja: I understand tāṃ gatim with gaccha, and construe lokān uttamān with vraja.

“who do not turn their back in battle” aparāvartinām: Thus Ck, Ct; the word is quite rare in this sense (the phrase usually runs [saṃgrāmeṣu] anivartin, as in 2.58.35), but is corroborated by MBh 6.102.17. Most unlikely Cm (first explanation), Ctr, “‘who do not return,’ that is, the released,” and Cg (first explanation), “‘who do not return,’ that is, renouncers.”

“on taking leave of me” mayā tvaṃ samanujñātaḥ: The commentators all interpret the phrase as “with my permission.”

For the type of prayer, see 2.58.34ff. The śāstric discussion of these verses is interesting from a theological perspective, if rather involved. Cm, for example, is concerned to show that Rāma here grants the vulture liberation from rebirth (he cites Nṛsiṃhapurāṇa [cf. NaraP 49.95-96] and BhāgP [11.12.6]), and this act proves that during his avatāra Rāma had full consciousness that he is God (so in large part Ck). Ctr, by contrast, cites a parallel from the MBh (7.55.20ff.), wherein Subhadrā utters a comparable prayer over her dead son Abhimanyu.


Verse 32 is out of place; in fact, the entire funeral procedure here is confused. The proper sequence of events, after the construction of the pyre, is this: obtaining and dismembering the anustaraṇī or “covering animal” (verse 32; cf. 2.70.18 note); praying (verse 34); cremating (verse 31); the water libation (verse 35); the offering of food to the deceased (verse 33). This is essentially the sequence of events in 2.70-71 (the prayers, verse 18; the water libation, verse 23; the śrāddha, sarga 71), whereas in 2.95.25-30, the offering of food (almond meal) to Daśaratha takes place after the water libation (cf. also Kane 1962-1975, vol. 4, p. 220). Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct, Cr are aware of the disorder (Cm, Cg list the proper sequence). They cannot explain the difficulty of having the food offering precede the water offering (and that it is a food offering is strongly suggested by the many manuscripts that read piṇḍīkṛtya [-tvā] for peśīkṛtvā [see also 1250*.2], piṇḍa- being the word for the balls of food offered the dead). They do, however, attempt to solve the problem of the impossible postponement of the anustaraṇī until after the cremation by eliminating it altogether, interpreting anu tastāra as “made a spread,’ that is, of [holy darbha] grass, ‘around the bird’” (on which the food offering would properly be placed, cf. 2.95.30; or for other purposes, Kane 1962-1975, vol. 4, p. 206). But the language indicates clearly the rite of the anustaraṇī (note that anu + stṛ seems not to be attested in any but this ritualistic sense; why more than one animal is necessary, however, remains obscure; perhaps for the food offering). The NR, too, tries to eliminate the anustaraṇī, replacing it with the water libation, which is obviously impossible insofar as it preserves verse 35 as well. Were we to rearrange the verses as follows: 28, 32, 34, 29-31 (see verse 34 note), 35, 34, things would be in good shape. But we have virtually no manuscript authority for this, and so I am compelled to let the confusion stand in the translation.


“an offering” dadau: The offering of food is to be made only by the son of the dead man (cf. Kane 1962-1975, vol. 4, p. 206); compare note on verse 25 above. Normally it would be a ball of fine rice or barley and sesame. Perhaps meat is more appropriate for a vulture?


“the prayer for reaching heaven” svargagamanam: The Yāmyasūkta (ṚV 10.14.1-5 and 13-16), according to Cm, Cg, the former adding the Nārāyaṇasūkta (ṚV 10.90.1-16; Ctr cites, attributing to “Āpastamba,” a statement located in BhāGS [p. 2 line 16] that supports these identifications). Ck unconvincingly identifies it as the mantra “He who knows brahma attains the highest” (TaiUp 2.1.1). Ñ1, reading verses 29-30 after verse 34, attempts to make those verses the prayer, rather than any vedic hymns.


Cg (so Ctś) here considers in detail the propriety of offering the sacrament of cremation to the vulture (note that the ceremony will be performed also for the monkey-king Vālin in the Kiṣkindhākāṇḍa, see especially 24.42), claiming that by his devotion to Rāma, the bird succeeded in transcending his “caste” limitations. Ctr offers a veritable treatise on the whole question (pp. 215-26).


“according to the custom of the great seers” maharṣikalpena: That is, employing vedic mantras. Kalpa- as in 4.36.9; note how this is “glossed,” in the Padmapurāṇa version (Bengali recension? the lines are cited by Cm on verse 29), by (saṃskāram akarot … ) brahmavidhānataḥ. (Unlikely, “by him [Rāma] who was ‘like a great seer,’” Cm, Cg; accepted by Bhatt, who curiously concludes, “The comparison of Rāma with a great sage shows that he is not taken to be identical with Viṣṇu,” 1963, p. 412.)

The SR adds a final verse, which compares Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa to Viṣṇu and Indra, respectively (1253*).

Sarga 65


“westward” paścimāṃ … diśam: In 64.10 Jaṭāyus had told them that Rāvaṇa headed south. Do they proceed to the west, therefore, simply to return to Janasthāna first? (The NR indeed has them return to Janasthāna, where they pass the night in the ashram and leave at dawn, though even then they still go west [1254*].) Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct, Cr artificially construe “west” here with “south” in the next verse, “southwest.”


“It was nearly impassable” durgam: The particle tu in verse 4a suggests that we are to construe these qualifications with panthānam (“path”) in verse 2 (so Ct). Cm, Cg, Cr would have them modify araṇyam (“wilderness”) in the following verse, which is of course possible.


“dense” gahanam: I agree with Cm, Ct in interpreting this adjectivally (as in verse 3); optionally we may take it nominally, as in verse 13 below (“the forest [named Krauñca],” so Cm [second interpretation], Cg, Ck, Cr; cf. AmaK 2.4.1). Note that later on, the bards of the southern tradition (unfortunately accepted by the crit. ed.) become confused and locate the slaying of Virādha in the Krauñca forest, and that of Kabandha in the Daṇḍaka wilderness (6.96.26, corrected by the NR).


“seemed to bristle with life” prahṛṣṭam iva: Here in agreement with the commentators (Cm, Cg, Ct), since the negative connotations (see note on 50.11 above) that might be required by the ensuing action (verses 8ff.) are ruled out by the second half of the verse.


An SR addition hereafter has the brothers travel east about six miles, leave the Krauñca forest, and come upon a pit “like hell itself,” near which they see a female rākṣasa (Ayomukhī, by name), who catches hold of Lakṣmaṇa and invites him to live with her. In response Lakṣmaṇa cuts off her ears and nose and breasts, whereupon she runs away (App. I, No. 17; the incident is known to Bhoja, RāmāCam p. 202).


vañculaka”: Glossed karṇavāla by Cm, Cg. I am unable to find any information concerning the bird.

“most ominous” paramadāruṇaḥ: See 22.4 note on the clear auguristic connotations of the adjective.

“our [defeat]” āvayor [vijayam]: Literally, “[victory] over us,” obviously an objective genitive. Ct, Cr, with stubborn indifference to the context, appear to take it subjectively (“our victory”).


“enveloped in wind” samveṣṭitam … mātariśvanā: Cg identifies this occurrence as a portent (utpāta).


“Kabandha”: The word itself signifies, among other things, “headless trunk”; cf. 66.12 below (for the semantic development of the word, see the reference in the note on 22.11), though here it is the creature’s proper name, for he retains it even when his form has been changed (see 69.36). For a discussion of the monster typology into which Kabandha would fit, see the Introduction, Chapter 6.


“wrapped up in his own arms” bhujasaṃvṛtam: Recall that Kabandha’s arms are a league in length and that he is contorting them to pick out his animals (verse 19). Cv (first interpretation), Cm, Cg, Ct take the latter element of the compound as kvibanta, “encircling [animals] with his arms; Cv (second interpretation), Ck, as bahuvrīhi, “by whose arms there was an encircling [of animals).”


In an SR insertion here Lakṣmaṇa urges Rāma to forget about him and free himself first (1266*).


“foremost of dānavasdānavottamaḥ: These are usually (though in the Rām, except for Dundubhi [Kiśkindhākāṇḍa 11], not necessarily) malevolent beings; but in the epic the term is rarely if ever applied to rākṣasas (see verse 14), however blurred the difference between the two species becomes in the later literature. Cr remarks, “He was born in the lineage of Danu, but through his bad karma became a rākṣasa. There is therefore no contradiction in his being called a rākṣasa elsewhere.” See 67.1 note.


In the MBh version it is Lakṣmaṇa rather than Rāma who gives voice to despair (cf. 3.262.27ff.).


In a NW interpolation hereafter Rāma identifies himself to Kabandha, and tells him his story. Kabandha flies into a rage, saying that to live in the forest with one’s wife is a corruption of dharma, and that a forest hermit should not carry weapons (1270*). See above, 2.10-12, where the monster Virādha, who is in most ways homomorphic with Kabandha, makes the same charge (cf. also Pollock 1986, pp. 67ff., on the antinomian character of Rāma).


“against all creatures” sarvabhūteṣu: The locative is viṣaya, not partitive, as Cm would have it (“Among all creatures doom … ”).

The second line of the verse makes sense only as a question (pace Cm, Cr).


“(collapse) on the field of battle” raṇājire ( … sīdanti): The locative should be construed with pādas cd, rather than with ab: Rāma is considering how he could be stricken with such terror and paralysis on the field of battle.

Sarga 66


“Any minute ( … will bolt)” purā (tūrṇam ādate): purā functions adverbially, with the present (see 3.3.4).


“his horribly bristling (arms)” susaṃhṛṣṭau (bāhū): The adjective is perhaps to be construed with rāghavau, “(the Rāghavas … cut off his arms) with a violent shudder” (though it is unlikely, despite a parallel in 52.6 above, that we should follow Cg, Ck, Ct, “‘shuddering,’ with joy, because the arms were so easy to cut off”).


“skillful Rāma … his right arm” dakṣiṇo dakṣiṇaṃ bāhum … rāmaḥ: Instead of “skillful” (so Cv, Cm, Cg, Ct, Cr), Ct, Cr also suggest, “standing at his right.” Cg notes, “Lakṣmaṇa always goes to the right side of Rāma, and so faces an opponent’s left side, while Rāma faces his right” (see above, 3.15 and note; in the MBh, conversely, Rāma cuts off Kabandha’s left arm, Lakṣmaṇa his right, 3.263.32).

Sarga 67


Kabandha’s exposition of his history in this sarga appears to be a fusion of two separate stories, one contained in verses 1-6, another in verses 7-16, and a reasonable narrative connection between them is hard to establish. The condition created by Indra in verse 13 contradicts the previous version, and the setting of a limit in verse 15 is purely redundant. Thus it becomes difficult to accept the explanation offered by Cm, Cg, Ct that verses 7-16 are meant to clarify how Kabandha acquired his headless form; or that of Ck, Ct that the despicable form acquired by the seer’s curse is different from the headless trunk (how idaṃ rūpam of verse 2 can be thought to refer to something other than the idaṃ rūpam of verse 7 I do not know; see verses 4 and 27). Insofar as Lakṣmaṇa had asked the pertinent question (66.12), Kabandha’s narration would most naturally begin with a nod to the younger prince, as in verse 7. Moreover, the version of verses 1-6 is otherwise inferior, explaining less of the peculiar features of Kabandha’s appearance. It has the character of an addition, but one for whose presence no explanation is ready to hand (it is the one version that Bhoja knows, who excludes the Indra story, RāmāCam p. 202). All manuscripts offer the two versions, both of which thus ex hypothesi revert to the monumental poem of Vālmīki. Still, were we to insist on bracketing verses 1-6 as an “interpolation” — an ancient one piously retained — there is nothing to do about the reference to the seer in verse 16 (though see the note there). The problem is further complicated by the fact that a similar apparent doubling of stories is found in the Virādha episode (see 3.18 note).


“insulting” abhiśāpa-: For this sense of the word (though the substantival form not found) cf. HariVaṃ 12.28. Not too different the commentators, “assault” (Cm, Cg, Ck, Ct).


“radiantly handsome” śriyā virājitam: This cannot be interpreted, with Cm, as “son of Śrī (of the lineage of Danu),” in order to accord with 4.4.12, “A son of Śrī [v.l., “of Diti”] named Danu (who had become a rākṣasa because of a curse).” (Note, however, that he is called Danu in verses 18 and 24 below, and in 70.15, and “foremost of dānavas” in 65.24; in both the MBh [3.263.38] and the HariVaṃ [31.119], Kabandha, like Virādha [cf. 3.18], is a gandharva [named Viśvāvasu].) A number of manuscripts attempt to alter the reading.


Because of Kabandha’s boon, the thunderbolt only wounds him and fails to kill him.


“the great seer” maharṣiṇā: Ñ1 reads, “I, my lord (have spoken truly),” eliminating the one problematic vestige of the “interpolated” version (see verses 1ff. note), but unsupported by other manuscripts. The omission of the verse in the NW version appears to result from scribal error, and thus probably has no text-critical significance.


“at his leisure” yathāsukham: Thus in accordance with Ck, Ct, and as at 38.17; less likely Cg, Cr, “(when I was absent, had left) at my leisure,” that is, presumably, off on a leisurely hunt.


“we” vayam: The plurals here and in verses 21-22, when the dual is expected, are not unparalleled in the poem (compare 6.114.12, where in recounting the incident of Virādha’s burial the plural is curiously again employed; see also 2.31.17 and note; 3.10.58, 15.38, 50.5).


“broken off over time” kāle bhagnāni: As forest hermits Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa may only use branches naturally broken off trees (see note on 2.25.7).

“prepare a … pit” śvabhre … kalpite: Perhaps they are going to cremate him and then bury the remnants (cf. the case of Virādha, 3.24 note).


Rāma and Kabandha are cleverly wrangling over who must go first. Rāma insists on Kabandha’s telling him before he cremates him, reasonably supposing he will be unable to do so afterward (so Ck on verse 18); whereas Kabandha suspects that once Rāma receives the information, there will be no incentive for the prince to cremate him (so Cg on verse 31). It is to this dispute that the next verse refers.


“one clever speaker to another” kuśalo vaktuṃ vaktāram: The tṛ suffix here denotes “a worthy or fit speaker” (cf. KāśiVṛ on 3.3.169).


“until I am cremated” adagdhasya: Yet even then Kabandha will know virtually nothing. We must not, however, pay too close attention to the epistemological problem posed by his partial knowledge (verse 17, not to speak of his full knowledge of his life prior to the curse, verses 1ff.) when he should know nothing (verse 27), and his total ignorance later when he should know everything. The speech may simply be more of the dispute over who should start and constitute a (false) inducement to get Rāma to be the first. But in any case, the whole episode is in great part a divertissement (as sarga 68 demonstrates all the more clearly) after the harrowing madness and grief of sargas 55-64, and is not meant to receive too exacting an analysis.


“before the sun drives … home” yāvan na yāty astaṃ savitā: Cremations must take place before sundown (noted also by Bhatt 1963, p. 412).


“one who will know” yaḥ … jñāsyati: The monkey-king Sugrīva is meant. The story of Rāma’s alliance with him is narrated in the Kiṣkindhākāṇḍa. Perhaps it is because of Danu’s still “impaired knowledge” that he claims Sugrīva will know about Rāvaṇa, when in fact he will know nothing.


“He adheres to established usage” nyāyyavṛttena: Rāma need have no fear in forming an alliance with Sugrīva, for he respects the reciprocal obligations of such a union (as indeed he will, but only after considerable prompting; see Book Four, sarga 29).


“for some reason or other” kāraṇāntare: Despite the fact that the compound clearly implies political conflict in 46.4 above, and that in the case of Sugrīva and Vālin, too, the same sort of conflict is at issue, I translate it here as expressing indefiniteness, since Kabandha’s knowledge is still impaired. He will later explain fully what the reason was (68.16).

Sarga 68


“went to find,” āsādya: Cg, Ck, Ct understand the verb causatively, “they moved (Kabandha to a cleft).”


“solid fat” mahat medasā: Not unobjectionable, though I see no other way to construe the instrumental. Cg takes it closely with pacyamānasya, glossing “dense with fat,” but I doubt strongly whether the verbal can bear this sense (Cm, Ct, Cr all supply pūrṇasya, “full,” to govern the instrumental).


“spotless garments” araje vāsasī: That is, to which dust does not adhere; a sign of divinity (cf. above, 4.5-6).


“aerial chariot harnessed with geese” vimāne … haṃsayukte: To Cm, Cg, Ck this detail suggests that through Rāma’s purification of him, Kabandha has reached the world of Brahmā (the goose being Brahmā’s mount).


“But when the wick runs out on a man (he is hounded by adversity)” parimṛṣṭo daśāntena (daśābhāgena sevyate): Literally, “when one is touched by the end of a wick,” or so I suppose, but the verse is obscure. Hesitatingly I suggest this: There are six “measures of royal policy” (war, peace, neutrality, etc.; cf. MBh 12.69.65ff., ArthŚā 7.1.1 ff., ManuSm 7.160-61; this is how all commentators understand the phrase; Pārthasārathi in ŚāstDī p. 87 interprets it as referring to the six pramāṇas). But Kabandha is not going to give Rāma a long lecture on them, for a man who, like Rāma, is at the end of his rope is going to be harassed by continuing disaster if he persists in acting alone (verse 9ab). Therefore, Kabandha simply advises him to make friends with Sugrīva (verse 10). The commentators do not supply convincing alternatives; the solution of Cm, Cg, Ct, for example, runs: A man touched by adversity is served by, or naturally allied with, “one who has had a reversal of fortune,” taking daśābhāgena as bahuvrīhi. But why should the same compound be a bahuvrīhi in verse 8d and a tatpuruṣa in 9a; and daśānta in the same line a tatpuruṣa? Furthermore, why should a man in trouble seek an alliance with someone else whose principal qualification is that he too is in trouble? (Ctr tries unsuccessfully to answer this question, pp. 243-44.)


“Ṛśyamūka”: I spell the word thus, with palatal instead of retroflex s, here and throughout, in accordance with Bhatt 1963, p. 412.


“honors claims of gratitude” kṛtajñaḥ: Probably thus, rather than “skilled in practice” (see 2.1.20, 16.31, 23.4; 3.31.19 and notes), that is, an effective ally; for it appears to be this gratitude to which verse 15 is making reference.


“the son of Ṛkṣarajas” ṛkṣarajasaḥ putraḥ: Cg reports that some commentators hold Ṛkṣarajas to be the mother’s name. Like Ck, Ct, Cr, I take it to be that of his putative father.

“ever since he wronged him” kṛtakilbiṣaḥ: Ever since, that is, Vālin wronged Sugrīva (cf. 4.8.23, vālinaṃ kṛtakilbiṣam, which given the context must mean, “Vālin, who committed this wrong”; see also 4.2.13 and, for a clear statement from the poet on who has wronged whom, 4.4.19). Nonetheless, the compound is inherently ambiguous; Cr in fact glosses, “Sugrīva committed a wrong against Vālin” (Cg neutralizes the question, “being engaged in hostilities with Vālin,” cf. 4.4.19). The uncertainty as to who is at fault in the fratricidal struggle between the monkeys is discussed in Masson 1975.


Cm, Ck, Ct, Cr suppose the verse to mean that Rāma is to lay down his weapon before the fire when he makes the pact with Sugrīva. This is not, however, what happens (see Kiṣkindhākāṇḍa 5). (Venkatanathacharya [1965, pp. 503-4 note] makes the following suggestion: Since Sugrīva is terrified of his brother and suspects warriors to be sent out against him, the advice here is probably simply for Rāma to unstring and deposit his weapons somewhere [he has been advancing in full battle readiness up till now; see 63.8 above], in order to show his peaceful intention, lest Sugrīva flee at once; or, since Rāma does remain armed (4.2.15), the advice here must be for him to proceed with a non-belligerent bearing.)


“has discovered” adhigacchati: I understand the tense aspect as perfective (cf. 67.31; 4.45.1), though it may as easily be future (“will discover,” as the NW version seeks to make clear, reading vetsyati; see verses 20ff. below); in 4.7.2 Sugrīva confesses that he has no knowledge whatever of Rāvaṇa.


“flawless” aninditām: A general commendatory epithet, probably, although according to Cg, Ck, Ct, Rāma is hereby meant to infer that Sītā’s chastity has not been violated.

Sarga 69


Here and in verses 8ff., in what is surely intended to be a humorous passage, Kabandha — as if he still bore within him the vivid recollection of the gnawing hunger of his previous existence — enticingly describes the gustatory delights awaiting Rāma.


“lotus-covered lake known as Pampā” puṣkariṇīṃ … pampāṃ nāma: Elsewhere it is called a river (see 5.16 and note).


“free from … pitfalls” avibhraṃśām: The substantive is rare; Ck, Ct gloss, “‘anything to trip up one’s feet,’ that is, there are no entangling weeds” (Cg, “without soft banks”).


“redfish and crooked-snouts and reedfish” rohitān vakratuṇḍāṃś ca nalamīnāṃś ca: The translation of fish names are best guesses; the commentators here and elsewhere (MBh 12.29.84, Śāk 6.14.3, ManuSm 5.16) are unhelpful.

“fins” -pakṣān: The word appears to be unrecorded in this sense. The line could refer to the birds mentioned in verse 8, though the other qualifications seem less appropriate to them (see also verse 11). Moreover, the image of roasting fish on iron spits is found elsewhere (cf. MBh 12.15.30, ManuSm 7.20).


“trees” viṭapī: This anomalous form is widely supported by both recensions (for the