Democracy and Asylum in Ramayana (Post No.11,549)


Post No. 11,549

Date uploaded in London – 15 December 2022                  

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 The story of Rama has been an inspiration to Hindus for generations. We see him in the dramas of Bhasa and works of Kalidasa. If we take into account of all the songs composed by famous composers and poems by Alvars, his story would have been repeated thousaands of times. Even the great Saivite saints didn’t forget to mention him in their devotional poems.

Some of important matters in the epic may be missed by the devoted readers of Ramayana. They focus their mind only in devotion to Rama and Sita. There are many anecdotes where democracy is favoured instead of autocracy.

In all ancient cultures the eldest son is appointed as the next king. In Dasaratha’s Ayodhya one would expect the same. But Dasaratha humbly sought the opinion of all elders and ministers in the assembly before appointing his son Rama. It is in the second Sarga of Ayodhyaa Kaanda.

Tamil poems give another anecdote where Rama was conducting a consultation meeting under a banyan tree with the civil engineers about building a pontoon bridge between Dhanushkoti and Sri Lanka. It is in poem 70 of Akananuru. The birds on the tree were making huge noise. Perturbed by the interference, he asked them to shut up. Ad miraculously they all fell into silence. The ancient commentators commenting on this verse say that Rama was holding a secret consultation meeting with the heroes of the Monkey Brigade (Vaanara Sena) about the impending war with Ravana.

The third democratic consultation is seen in the chapter on Vibhishana’s surrender to Rama. Before giving him asylum Rama sought the opinion of all the important leaders assembled there.

Even in Ravana’s Sri Lanka we see Vibhishana, Kumbakarna giving their opinions boldly against Ravana’s detention of Sita Devi.


Some of the slokas in the relevant chapters are worth quoting.

Dasaratha says that he wanted to appoint Rama as next king and he took this decision after consulting others. And he seeks the assembly’s consent

अनेन श्रेयसा सद्यस्संयोज्यैवमिमां महीम्।

गतक्लेशो भविष्यामि सुते तस्मिन्निवेश्य वै।।2.2.14।।

तस्मिन् when such, सुते son (Rama), इमाम् this, महीम् earth, निवेश्य entrusting, अनेन श्रेयसा to ensure the welfare of the world, एवम् thus, सद्य: without any delay, संयोज्य having united, गतक्लेश: relieved of my anxieties, भविष्यामि shall become.

I shall be relieved of my anxiety by entrusting the land (ruled by me) to my son (Rama) without any more delay and thus ensure the continued welfare of this world.

यदिदं मेऽनुरूपार्थं मया साधु सुमन्त्रितम्।

भवन्तो मेऽनुमन्यन्तां कथं वा करवाण्यहम्।।2.2.15।।

मया by me, सुमन्त्रितम् well thoughtover, इदम् this word, साधु proper, मे my, अनुरूपार्थं यदि if worthy of me, भवन्त: you, मे to me, अनुमन्यन्ताम् your consent shall be given, अहम् I, कथं वा how else, करवाणि I shall do?

Although it (this decision) is personally favourable to me and I have decided after seeking good counsel, you should also give me your consent and tell me what I should do.

यद्यप्येषा मम प्रीतिर्हितमन्यद्विचिन्त्यताम्।

अन्या मध्यस्थचिन्ता हि विमर्दाभ्यधिकोदया।।2.2.16।।

एषा this, मम my, प्रीति: यद्यपि even though I like, अन्यत् any alternative, हितम् means of welfare, विचिन्त्यताम् let it be thought over, मध्यस्थचिन्ता opinion of those without partiality, अन्या alternative, विमर्दाभ्यधिकोदया deliberations may bring good.

Although this is what I would like to do, please suggest alternative ways of achieving the welfare (of this kingdom). Deliberations by the unbiased (on this issue) may bring good.

इति ब्रुवन्तं मुदिताः प्रत्यनन्दन्नृपा नृपम्।

वृष्टिमन्तं महामेघं नर्दन्त इव बर्हिणः।।2.2.17।।

इति thus, ब्रुवन्तम् speaking, नृपम् king Dasaratha, नृपा: kings, मुदिता: delighted, वृष्टिमन्तम् raining, महामेघम् thick cloud, नर्दन्त: making sounds, बर्हिण: इव like peacocks, प्रत्यनन्दन् acclaimed.

Having thus heard king Dasaratha speak, the kings acclaimed him with delight, like peacocks crying (in joy) to see thick clouds.


Vibhishana Saranaagathi  (Vibhishana seeking asylum)

After listening to the views of assembled monkey leaders including Sugriva and Hanuman, Rama decided to give Vibhishana, asylum. Vanara leaders did not give a unanimous verdict. Some of them opposed Vibhishana saying that he may be a spy or an unreliable person who even deserted his own brother. Rama weighed their opinions and gave the final judgement. He is very clear and says that it is MY POLICY to give asylum to anyone who surrenders humbly. And he also quoted the famous saying of Kandu Rishi. Here are the quotable quotes:

Vibhishana Saranagathi

मित्र भावेन सम्प्राप्तम् न त्यजेयम् कथंचन |

दोषो यदि अपि तस्य स्यात् सताम् एतद् अगर्हितम् ||6-18-23

“By any means, I do not desert anyone who arrives with a friendly appearance, even if he has a defect. His acceptance is irreproachable in the eyes of good men”

श्रूयते हि कपोतेन शत्रुः शरणम् आगतः ||६-१८-२४

अर्चितः च यथा न्यायम् स्वैः च मांसैर् निमन्त्रितः |

“It is narrated how by a dove, its enemy ( a fowler) when it came for a refuge, was received according to rules of hospitality and was invited for a feast with its own flesh.”

स हि तम् प्रतिजग्राह भार्या हर्तारम् आगतम् ||६-१८-२५

कपोतो वानर श्रेष्ठ किम् पुनर् मद् विधो जनः |

“O, the excellent of monkeys! The aforesaid dove indeed accepted as a guest, the fowler as he came, although he killed its wife .How much more a man like me has to do?”

ऋषेः कण्वस्य पुत्रेण कण्डुना परम ऋषिणा ||६-१८-२६

शृणु गाथाम् पुरा गीताम् धर्मिष्ठाम् सत्य वादिना |

“Hear the verses inculcating virtue so long ago, by Kandu, the son of a sage called Kanva, a great sage and a speaker of truth.”

बद्ध अन्जलि पुटम् दीनम् याचन्तम् शरण आगतम् ||६-१८-२७

न हन्याद् आनृशंस्य अर्थम् अपि शत्रुम् परम् पत |

“O, king the terminator of enemies! Even an enemy, who formed a cup with his hollowed hands, a miserable person, a person who is begging and who is seeking a refuge should not be killed with the aim of not being cruel.”

अर्तो वा यदि वा दृप्तः परेषाम् शरणम् गतः ||६-१८-२८

अरिः प्राणान् परित्यज्य रक्षितव्यः कृत आत्मना |

“An enemy who comes for protection against others, even if the aforesaid enemy is oppressed or arrogant, is to be protected by one who has a disciplined mind, even by abandoning one’s life.”

स चेद् भयाद् वा मोहाद् वा कामाद् वा अपि न रक्षति ||६-१८-२९

स्वया शक्त्या यथा तत्त्वम् तत् पापम् लोक गर्हितम् |

“If he does not protect rightly through his strength, by fear or by ignorance or by desire, it is a sin to be reproached by the world.”

विनष्टः पश्यतस् तस्य रक्षिणः शरण आगतः ||६-१८-३०

आदाय सुकृतम् तस्य सर्वम् गच्चेद् अरक्षितः |

“If having not been protected, a refugee dies before the eyes of a man who is able to protect him, the former takes along all his moral merit and goes.”

एवम् दोषो महान् अत्र प्रपन्नानाम् अरक्षणे ||६-१८-३१

अस्वर्ग्यम् च अयशस्यम् च बल वीर्य विनाशनम्

“In not protecting thus the persons who take refuge, there is a great blemish involved in it. It does not bestow heaven. It destroys reputation. It devastates strength and valor”

करिष्यामि यथा अर्थम् तु कण्डोर् वचनम् उत्तमम् ||६-१८-३२

धर्मिष्ठम् च यशस्यम् च स्वर्ग्यम् स्यात् तु फल उदये |

“I will follow the excellent words of Kandu. It becomes a very righteous thing, gives reputation, leads to heaven and the rewards appear consequently.”

सकृद् एव प्रपन्नाय तव अस्मि इति च याचते ||६-१८-३३

अभयम् सर्व भूतेभ्यो ददामि एतद् व्रतम् मम |

“He who seeks refuge in me just once, telling me that I am yours’, I shall give him assurance of safety against all types of beings. This is my solemn pledge” 6 -18 – 33


Tags- democracy, Ramayana, Asylum, Surrender, Vibhishana, Quotes

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