Some thoughts on the Crow, the crime and Raman's reasons on the occasion of Sri Rama Navami.
The story of Kakasura vadha is a well known one. Jayantha, the son of Indra took the form of a crow and troubled Sita when Sita and Rama were in exile. Sita recalled that story and asked Hanuman to convey it to Rama as a token of her identity. In this post I am dealing with certain issues connected with this episode.
(1) Why did Jayantha choose this body first of all?
(2) What were his intentions?
(3) Can someone like the son of Indra even dream of doing this wrong to Sita, an avatar the Goddess of Lakshmi?
(4) Why did Rama use the Brahmaasthra to kill a crow?
(5) While Rama instantly plucked the darbha grass and sent it as Brahmaasthra to kill Kaakasura, Jayantha in the body of a crow, why didn't he do the same to kill Ravana who abducted Sita?
Valmiki Ramayana is the best source to look for answers to these questions.
(1) Why did Jayantha choose the form of a crow?
Taking up the form of a crow has its own advantages. The crow is considered as the medium to transfer obeisance to Pitrus, the departed forefathers. It is interesting to note that Valmiki mentions that Jayantha in crow's body paid respects to Rama and Dhasharatha before he left the scene.
'sa raamaaya namskruthva raajye Dasharathaaya cha' (Sundhara Khanda 38-38)
Where was Dasaratha in the scene until then?
The scene was set in a leisurely locale where Rama and Sita were having happy times together. The crow intervened and poked her flesh. There was no mention of Dasaratha throughout the scene. Also Dasaratha was no more when this episode took place.
The possible answer is that since the crow stands for a conduit for paying off pithru ruNam (pithru kadan / obeisance to pithrus ), Jayantha could have thought it safer to appear as a crow, expecting Rama to see his pithrus in crow and refrain from harming him.
Or since he has brought disgrace to the entire species of crows which receive the pindam for pithrus, he invoked Dasaratha's his blessings or pardon.
(2) What were Jayantha's intentions? & (3) How could he think of harming Sita?
I think the answer for this lies in the very name of crow in Sanskrit.
It is kaaka:
The crow's only language is kaa kaa.
Kaa means 'who is she' in Sanskrit.
The crow seems to be only species which always says 'who is she?' 'who is she?'
Is this she?
Is that she?
Is this Sita she?
The crow seems to have tried to ascertain the identity of the Universal She!
Jayantha seems to have come down from Indra loka to show to this world and humanity who the Great Goddess of compassion is!
When it tried to test this on Sita, Sita did not harm him at the first instance.
So 'this she' is one who has immense patience.
At the second occasion too, she didn't harm the crow for what it was doing to her.
So no doubt about her extreme patience with offenders.
But Rama intervened.
Again in her presence only, the crow could get a lease of life.
So it is known without doubt that this is the SHE, the purushakaari, the Compassionate Mother of all.
That is why the crows always sing 'who is she"
'Who is she, who is merciful even to the worst offender?'
Not only that, the crow also seems to remind us who is HE who pardons even the worst offender. 'kaha?' 'kaha?'
Therefore it is kaaka:
Not only the Indian crow but also the crow in a foreign land goes about spreading the message 'kaa' 'kaa' 'who is she?'J
I think the crow is an apt character to bring out the highest quality of the divine couple.
Though Jayantha's impersonation seemed to be a well thought-out one, it did not ensure his safety. He had the worst time of his life and had to run around to save himself. Why this happened can be understood through Pancha pakshi sastra – an astrological theory based in 5 birds.
As per this, 5 birds have been identified as depicting or showing certain characteristics based on which a person can decide about doing or not doing an activity in a given moment.
Crow is one among the 5 birds of this sastra. In nimittha sastra, the sight of a crow to one's left is considered auspicious. The crow also enjoys the status as a vahana for Saneeshwara. It also stands as a medium for paying off obeisance to departed ancestors. Due to all these reasons people do not harm a crow. Jayantha would have felt it safe to look like a crow.
The analysis on lines of Pancha pakshi throws some interesting information.
As per this sastra the choice of the form of the crow meant doom for Jayantha.
Jayantha's name stands for another Pancha pakshi namely the cock, which is an enemy to crow as per this sastra. This means that crow would bring troubles to a person of cock.
Also it became possible for him to irritate Sita (whose pancha pakshi was the owl) for owl and crow are enemies. But Rama's pancha pakshi is vulture which had an over powering effect on the crow.
As per this sastra, the kaakasura episode could have happened on a Thursday, or else Jayantha could not have escaped like this.
If one wonders whether it could be true that Rama and Sita would have taken lightly on the crow initially on consideration of pancha pakshi, my reply is "strongly possible" They would have thought that they would not face troubles from a crow.
To support this contention we can quote many instances from Ramayana showing importance given to Nimiththa sastra and portents seen at a moment. At many places in Ramayana, the daily or hourly nimittha had been considered for favorable or unfavorable events.
Even the fixing of muhurtha for Rama's coronation was done (rushed) by Dasaratha on the basis of tara-bala and thithi bala, whereas the natal horoscope of Rama did not support coronation at that time.
Dasaratha expressed fears about some trouble from Bharatha and combining it with prediction of his maaraka (death), rushed to fix the coronation on the day's strength (Tara bala). Even before the onset of the favorable day, the damage had occurred and the coronation was cancelled.
Again at Yuddha khaanda, we find Rama depending on Tara-balam while setting out for journey to lanka.
My contention is that importance was given to Tara (day's star) and hora position Pancha pakshi sastra depends on the hora – the running time when an activity happens.
The inference is that even though a crow's body was a safer bet, the pancha pakshi birds of Rama and Sita over powered him. Finally his escape was possible because of a helpful timing when Jayantha committed the offence.
Now questions (4) & (5) Why did Rama resort to Brahmastra to kill the Crow whereas he did not do the same to kill Ravana the moment he came to know that he was the abductor of Sita?
In this context, 3 instances are needed to be seen to understand the inner significance. They were 3 entities who offended Rama on whom he applied Brahmastra. One was Jayantha as kakasura, the second was the Samudra raja who did not appear before him when Rama prayed to him and the third was Ravana. Rama used the darbha grass as the Brahmastra to kill Jayantha. Jayantha at last fell at his feet and sought pardon. Rama used Brahmastra on samdra Raja too when he failed to appear before him. And in the case of Ravana, Rama did not think of using the Brahmastra until reminded by his Charioteer.
Jayantha was a Deva who was blessed with eternity. So he could not be killed. However for the kind of offence he did to Sita, he deserved to be harmed by the Brahmastra. He did lose the sight of one eye by Rama's Brahmastra.
In the 2nd episode involving samdra Raja, Rama was seated on a mat of Darbha grass while he prayed to Samudra Raja to appear before him and make way in the ocean. When he did not appear, Rama could have very well plucked a Darbha grass from the seat and shot it as a Brahmastra. But he did not do so.
He summoned Lakshmana to get his astras to punish Samudra rajan. That may be because the Darbha seat was already carrying the energy of his penance and therefore could not be used for another purpose.
In the 3rd episode at Lanka war, though he was possessed of Brahmasthra among other weapons, he had to be reminded of that by his Charioteer, Maadali to punish Ravana, the greatest offender of all.
The first was a Deva (Jayantha as Kaakasura), the 2nd was a Danava (Samudra Raja) and the 3rd was a Rakshasa (Ravana).
The first and the 3rd were punished, while the 2nd was not. Rama seemed to have reasons for making a judgement in each case. This is brought out by Hanuman in his dialogue with Sita.
"Rama is one who knows when to show anger" ('sthana krodha: -34-31)
"Rama is one who knows about when and where and how to punish his enemies" ('dEsha kaala vibhakanjya:' 35-21)
He knows Raja neethi and follows the 4 neethis (one among them is Danda neethi) as per the situation. (Raja vidhya vineedhas cha -35- 13)
So there is some meaning behind every act of Rama in his danda neethi.
His guiding principles can be ascertained from what Samudra raja told when he appeared before Rama.
The Samudra Raja told Rama that he cannot make the waters stop or recede. Rama can not punish him for not stopping the waters because he was not disobeying Rama for any extraneous reasons.
He (samudra rajan) has no desire for prosperity or riches,
no desire for something to which he is not entitled,
has no fear of having incurred some paapam (misdeed),
he has not done anything objectionable or wrong as to attract the wrath of Rama to shoot him with the Brahmasthra.
In the absence any such valid reasons, Rama could not punish him. All that he did was to threaten him and that was enough for Samdra rajan to come in the open and give some suggestions to Rama. But the threat to use Brahmasthra was needed to make him come out as he was a Danava – between Deva and Rakshasa nature who was powerful by himself as to challenge anyone but Samudra Raja was law abiding.
From the above, it is known that the desire for something for which one is not entitled to is the cause to attract punishment by for Rama's Brahmastra. Kaakasura and Ravana fit in this category.
Kakasura is a deva and the astra chased him till he sought rakshanam (protection). An ancient commentary on Ramayana called Govinda rajeeyam refers to rakshanam (Protection by the Lord) in explaining why Rama left Ravana at the first time and why Rama appeared only after the vanaras were beaten by Ravana and sought refuge in Rama.
Sri Govindarajar says that rakshakam is done only in aarthi (suffering). The vanaras after being badly affected by Ravana rushed to Rama for protection,. Rama became the protector.
Rakshakam is also done when one is helpless. That was when Kaakasura fell at his feet and Ravana was about to swoon and his weapons slipped from his hands. When Ravana was helpless, Rama's danda neethi and Raja neethi was such that he would not kill / punish him. This is also one part of the explanation for Rama killing Vali. He didn't kill him when he was helpless. Had Vali been deprived of weapons (niraayudhapaani), Rama would not have killed him as he did. And there were others reasons in Vali Vadam.
Coming to our topic, on sighting Ravana for the first time in the war field, Rama declares that having sighted him, he would not let him go unpunished. Since Rama had seen him, Ravana can not escape even if he takes shelter in Indra, yama, surya, Brahma deva, agni or shankara or in any of the 10 directions.
This happened with Kaakasura who was right in front of Rama. Rama's astra chased him and no power on earth could save him except Sita's presence and his surrender to Rama.
Rama could not punish Ravana immediately because he was not in his presence at the time of committing the offence. This is this difference between the two scenes.