Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Best Husband

Rama and Lakshmana slaying Viradha“Also, Viradha, a Rakshasa of dreadful prowess, was killed in battle in the forest by Rama’s exhibition of valor, like Shambara was by Mahendra.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.8)

virādhaḥ ca hataḥ samkhye rākṣaso bhīma vikramaḥ |
vane rāmeṇa vikramya mahā indreṇa iva śambaraḥ ||

A husband is a protector first and foremost. Women are generally weaker than men physically, and so women need protection of some sort in a society. Not everyone is nice. Some will want to steal women that have their hearts devoted to another man. The man, in some capacity, must be able to protect his wife from these fiends. The spirit soul, the identifying agent within each life form, acts through service, and one mechanism of service is protection. The mother protects the child in the womb, the parents the child in youth, the husband the wife in adulthood, and so on. The greatest protector of all is the Supreme Lord, and for His devotees He will move heaven and earth if required. This truth is touched upon by Shri Hanuman in the above referenced quote.

As a quick background for the scene in question, Hanuman is observing a princess from a distance in a beautiful garden. Hanuman is like a powerful monkey with human characteristics. These events took place in the Treta Yuga, or second time period of creation. According to the Vedas all the species already exist, as they are just collections of the material elements. The proportional quantity of those elements can vary, to the extent of 8,400,000 different species. In the beginning of the creation, the species are more intelligent with respect to cognizance of their true identity. As time goes by, the affinity for material association, which is rooted in ignorance, increases, resulting in a degradation of the species. In the Treta Yuga, a relatively pure age, even the forest dwelling monkeys resemble the human beings to some degree.

Hanuman is in this garden looking for a missing princess. She was taken away from the side of her husband while residing in the forest. Hanuman has not met her before, but based on the characteristics of her husband, he can understand that she is extraordinary. Seeing this woman from afar, Hanuman realizes that she is the missing princess, Sita Devi. He then starts to review all that her husband has already done for her, in the process making the point that the effort was well worth it. If you work hard for something that isn’t worth it, your effort is essentially a waste of time. Based on Sita’s vision alone, any effort made by any man to try to please her would be worth it. This would be especially true in the case of the husband.

Hanuman says that it was for the sake of Sita that the Rakshasa Viradha was slain. Viradha had a dreadful prowess, and he was killed in the forest through Rama’s exhibition of valor. The story of that encounter is told in the Aranya-kanda of the same Ramayana poem. Sita and Rama entered the forest of Dandaka along with Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana. Rama and Lakshmana were military men, fighters who were sons to the King of Ayodhya, Maharaja Dasharatha. Kings during those times were all expert fighters. Dasharatha’s name means one of ten-chariots. He could defeat men fighting in ten directions all by himself. If you combine an expert fighter with dedication to religious principles, you get an ideal leader of a community. Rama’s group was in the forest of Dandaka due to the envy of Dasharatha’s youngest wife Kaikeyi; obviously the austere setting wasn’t common for royalty.

They made the best of the situation by visiting ashramas in various settings. After leaving one particular ashrama, the group ran into Viradha. He was something else to look at. He was large, gruesome, ugly, and covered with blood all around. He had a few animal corpses around him as well, as he was by no means a vegetarian. A Rakshasa is a man-eater, and in Viradha’s case he liked the flesh of the ascetics who lived peacefully in the forest.

Upon seeing the trio, Viradha immediately grabbed Sita and kept her by his waist. Rama was greatly pained by this. He remarked to Lakshmana that Kaikeyi’s wish was finally coming true, that her work was bearing fruit. Lakshmana was in a fit of rage, and together the two brothers began to attack Viradha. The demon told the brothers that he had a boon from Lord Brahma that granted him immunity from enemy weapons. Despite being peppered with arrows flying from Rama and Lakshmana, Viradha retained his life.

Letting go of Sita, he then grabbed hold of Rama and Lakshmana and placed them on his shoulders. At this Sita tried to bargain, asking the demon to take her instead. In that situation, the two brothers decided to cut off the demon’s arms and then beat him with their own hands. After pummeling him, Rama decided that Viradha couldn’t be killed, and so he told Lakshmana to dig a ditch. Rama kept his foot on the demon’s throat while Lakshmana proceeded to dig. At this Viradha finally relented. He told Rama that previously a curse was placed upon him. It said that only by seeing Sita, Rama and Lakshmana would the curse be lifted. Thus Viradha agreed to be slain by being placed in the pit. He then reassumed his divine form and departed for heaven.

Sita, Rama and LakshmanaHanuman compares Rama’s slaying of Viradha to Indra’s slaying of Shambara. Indra is the king of heaven, and since the beginning of time he has had many fights with the demon class. Slaying Shambara involved a lengthy and methodical attack that took quite some time. The comparison is appropriate here because Viradha was not easy to defeat, either. Rama also only fought him because he had taken Sita.

In this way Rama is certainly the best husband, and seeing Sita Hanuman knew that Rama’s relentless defense of her was well worth it. Hanuman was Rama’s messenger after all, and Hanuman’s brave journey to Lanka to look for Sita is an extension of Rama’s protection. Through the good efforts of Hanuman, that best husband in the world would soon arrive in Lanka to rescue His wife.

In Closing:

Because to see Sita he did strive,

Her husband soon in Lanka to arrive.

 

Rama’s slaying of Viradha required methodical attack,

Just like Indra to Shambara in a time long back.

 

A husband’s duty is to protect,

The enemy forces from her to deflect.

 

For Sita Rama did all of this and more,

Hanuman knew it was a worthwhile chore.

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