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Vikas Kamat
 Vikas Kamat is a programmer- entrepreneur living in Birmingham AL. This blog is a complex mix of Indian culture, life in southern USA, computer sciences, and sports. Opinions are his own.
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Rama's Mistake Durable Link to this BLOG
Why did Rama, the epitome of moral conduct, and a brave warrior, hide behind the trees and kill Vali, whom he had never met before, and who had done him no harm?

© K. L. Kamat
Rama Shoots an Arrow Through Seven Trees
Rama, hiding in the woods, shoots Vali during a duel of brothers.

Rama, the hero of Indian epic Ramayana is often described as the "Perfect Man".

"Possessing strength, aware of his responsibility and obligations, truthful in an absolute way, firm in execution of his words, compassionate, learned, attractive, powerful, free from anger and envy, but terror-striking when roused".
-- Quote from 11th century Ramayan by Kamban

The story of Ramayana is full of incidents and events depicting Rama's character. But today I want to point out an episode when Rama's judgment is questionable. Rama seems to have acted "out of partiality, half-knowledge, and haste, and shot and killed, a creature who had done him no harm, not even seen him"[1].

I am talking about the story of Vali and Sugreeva. This is one of the most controversial topics of Ramayana (along with Sita's Trial by Fire, and Abandonment of his twins; more on Rama's Character Flaws in a future entry).

Brothers Vali and Sugreeva are caught in a domestic dispute, one of which is the heart of a woman. Sugreeva persuades Rama to take sides with him and eliminate his brother. Rama agrees, his judgment weakened by his enormous grief (of kidnapping of his own wife). It is said that Vali's wife foresaw a conspiracy between Sugreeva and Rama, and Vali is said to have assured her -- "Why would a virtuous man like Rama conspire against me?! All I have done is fight evils and protect the righteous[2] in my life."

I believe that Rama could have found an amicable solution to the brother's dispute, and the inclusion of Vali would certainly have stengthened his own fight against Rawana. But we see that Rama values loyalty, and a promise to a friend, much more than the need to be fair or just.

Definitely something to ponder, at a time of crisis...

Notes:

  1. Source: R.K. Narayan, The Indian Epics Retold
  2. Vali, the strongman is said to have been the key figure in churning of Meru mountain and extraction of the amrut. He is also credited with killing of such demons as Mayavi and Dundubhi. Vali was a devotee of Lord Shiva.
  3. Link to Kishkindha Kanda chapter of Valmiki Ramayana.

See Also:
• Tales and Pictures from the Ramayana

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Sunday, September 24, 2006
Last Modified: 9/26/2006 4:40:09 PM
Tags: ramachandra, vali and sugreeva

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