Monday, June 9, 2008

Symbolism of Vaali vadham.

Vaali vadham had been a controversial one

that had invited a number of interpretations for ages.

But many interpretations had failed

to justify the way Rama killed Vali.

But Rama as perfect embodiment of Dharma can never be wrong.

He can never be thought to have slipped from dharma

at any time in Ramavadhara.

Even otherwise as Brahman,

He can not be

said to have faltered in dharma.

“Not even on account

of the peculiarity of situation can the two-fold

characteristics (v,z., positive and negative)

belong to the Highest” (Vedantha Sutra III-2-11).

He is Positive,

Pure, Auspicious and Right always.

Then why was Vali vadham designed in the way it was?

This post seeks to find an answer to this question.

Did Rama slip from Dharma in Vali vadam?

A person can be a ‘perfect’ embodiment of dharma

only if he had adhered to dharma at all times

and despite challenges to such adherence.

If he had slipped once,

how can He be called as a ‘perfect’ embodiment of dharma?

Once slipped, it is a slip for ever.

If in spite of vali vadam,

Rama were to be regarded as a ‘perfect’ embodiment of dharma

by a long list of enlightened ones starting from sages of yore,

the inference is that

Rama can not have done anything adharmic

in vali vadam.

We have on record the reasons to substantiate that

Rama’s act was indeed dharmic.

But that they (the reasons) have done precious little

is borne by the fact that the issue still remains.

The most often cited reasons are two.

(1) Vali was adharmic for having driven out his younger brother

who is to be treated as his own son and

for having taken his wife for sam-bhogam.

(2) It is only natural for a warrior like Rama

to have hunted him as he happens to be a monkey.

The first reason is not a strong one

though this is what Rama Himself says.

If younger brother is like a son and his wife the daughter-in-law,

what do we say about elder brother and his wife?

They are father and mother, rightly.

If Rama intended to punish Vali

for what he did to Ruma (Sugreeva’s wife),

why did he spare Sugreeva who took up Tara later?

He didn’t admonish him the least.

So this can not be the real reason.

Taking up the second reason,

how can it be said that Rama hunted Vali,

while killing Vali was a decision already made?

(by virtue of the pledge he

made with Agni as witness)

But why did he choose the mode

that was not fitting to the stature of one like Him?

He could not be said to have hunted Vali,

As Vali himself had noted that monkeys were not hunted.

So this reason also is not a sound one.

There are other reasons cited ,

but each one of them stands to be countered.

That is why the controversy continues.

The issue is not why he killed.

It is why he killed while not being in direct combat.

Though Vali accuses Rama initially,

he gets convinced later that Rama was

perfectly dharmic in His action.

He recalls the Hitopadesam by Tara on Rama’s greatness,

before he set out for the second combat with Sugreeva.

Rama also says that He has been perfectly dharmic

in what He had done.

So the nuances of how this act was dharmic can be picked out

somewhere in between the

Hitopadesa part of Tara and Rama’s reply to Vali.

Let us analyse the scenario step by step.

When Tara cautioned Vali,

Vali was too confident that

he would not be harmed by Rama who knows Dharma.

He least believed that Rama would harm him

because he (Vali) had been ‘innocent’

and that he had not done any offence (aparAdam) to Rama.

He repeats the same thing to Rama after he was hit by Him.

“I didn’t offend you in any way in your country or your town.

I didn’t humiliate you in any way.”

Just by applying logic found in this defence of Vali,

shall we say that if only he had not offended Rama,

if not in Rama’s place,

but in his own place (vali’s territory)

and humiliated Rama in some way,

could Rama have given him the end in the way as it was?

In order to understand the nuances,

let us remind ourselves that there was no going back

on killing Vali as far as Rama was concerned.

The moment He went around the fire

and pledged to sugreeva that he would kill Vali,

Vali’s fate was sealed.

So the issue was not why He killed.

The question whether Vali

committed any offence or not as to attract a death

sentence from Rama is irrelevant

(based on the pledge that Rama gave to Sugreeva).

But that he was killed in

a particular fashion alone gets connected with

some cause, probably an offence to Rama.

And Vali himself has acknowledged the fact that

Rama would not kill unless one has offended Him.

Since the killing was in an indirect mode,

the offence must also have been in an

indirect mode.

If we proceed with this line of reasoning,

we get ample evidence to show that Vali had indeed

offended Rama in an indirect way.

He seemed to have come into the

grasp of this indirect offense gradually

as he continued to talk to Rama.

One can see a palpable shift in Vali’s tone

from being accusative to submissive

thereby indicating that wisdom had dawned

on him slowly and lately.

It starts with Vali’s talks on Raj-dharma.

As he continued to speak of raj-dharma,

Rama’s commitment to

‘dhushtah nigraha- sishta paripaalanam’

sinks in his mind and wonders

“you have to do something,

but you have done some other thing”.

What is that something and some other thing is again

spelt by Vali himself.

“You have failed to show your

paraakramam on the one who had offended you,

namely Ravana, but instead you have shown your paraakramam

on me who had not offended you’”

Is Vali right when he said that he had not offended


Vali himself does not think so.

For he proceeds to ask (unprovoked)

“If only you have asked me to restore

Sita, I would have got her back within a day.

If only you had approached me,

I would have killed Ravana in combat, pulled him to you and got back Sita.

If only you had commanded me

I, like Hayagreeva who restored

Vedas from Madu-kaidapa,

would have gone after Ravana,

searched for Sita even if she is hidden

inside the oceans, and restored her back to you.”

So Vali himself thinks that there is some cause for

grouse by Rama about him.

Vali knows what Rama requires.

Vali knows that he (vali) is quite capable

of fulfilling that requirement.

But he has not done that.

He had not risen to the occasion.

Why should he,

is the question that comes to our mind.

In what way he is bound to help Rama

when Rama had not sought his help.

This is the message conveyed by Vali.

He thinks that because of his not rising to the occasion,

Rama had killed him unseen.

He expresses this in his talk

(that continues from the above mentioned one).

“ It is perfectly legitimate for Sugreeva to aspire

for the throne after me.

It is perfectly legitimate

for him to kill me to attain the throne.

But Rama, it is not legitimate on your part to hit me

when I am fighting with another”, says Vali.

“If you think it is

legitimate, tell me how”, says Vali

before he collapses.

So the issue now centres around whether Rama

considered the non-rising to the occasion of Vali

as an offence.

The answer is yes, going by what Rama says

in the beginning and at the end of his talk in reply to Vali.

Rama replies that He had been perfectly dharmic in

what He had done by having done that in the land

belonging to Ikshvahu dynasty

(He says that the entire Bhoo mandalam is under His dynasty (Ram Rajya?))

By this does He point out to Vali

that he had failed to carry out the dharma in his (Vali’s) land?

Vali spoke of all Raj-dharma that included

protecting the dharma in one’s land and punishing the offenders.

Did he follow that Raj-dharma?

He knew that Sita had been abducted.

He knew the one who had abducted her was once defeated by him.

So he was more valiant than the abductor

and could have easily overpowered him

if he had made an attempt.

Further the abduction was carried out in a land that

belonged to beings like him.

And Sita was carried

across his kingdom.

Sugreeva had seen the abduction.

So did Vali.

Sugreeva did not do anything to stop it,

he being incapable of doing that.

But Vali could have stopped it,

he being capable and

in his capacity as a king

who has to stop crimes in

his land and punish the offenders.

Vali had known that Sita had been abducted

and as a king must have been well aware

that she had been carried right across his land.

But he didn’t do anything about it,

despite being powerful enough to

stop it or restore her.

He didn’t do anything later -

to even go after Ravana for having unauthorizedly

crossed his land and committed a crime.

Rama didn’t wait for Bharatha’s command

to execute Raj-dharma.

For whose command did Vali wait to go after Ravana?

Or for that matter,

for whose command did the bird, Jatayu

wait to fight with Ravana?

The sense of duty that a pakshi (bird) had,

a monkey king didn’t have.

Vali need not have offended Rama directly.

But that he had failed in his duty has indirectly offended Rama.

By remaining passive,

he has allowed Ravana get away with Sita across his territory.

This passiveness amounts to assisting the crime

which in today’s jargon

is known as abetting.

The one who turns away his face

when a crime is being committed

is not spared by law of any land.

He, as an abettor is liable for a punishment

equivalent to that awarded for the actual crime committed.

By his act of abetting and by being

indifferent in his duty as a king,

Vali has offended Rama.

Since his offense is not of direct nature,

the hit he received from Rama was not of direct nature.

This can further substantiated by what Rama says about

the slaying. Never even once did Rama say that he

punished him.

He said that he only gave him a

‘praayaschittham’ (atonement).

He repeats the same to

Tara when she appears in the scene.

His repeated

reminders about stealing another man’s wife

(though outwardly seeming to refer to Ruma)

in effect is aimed

at reminding vali the real kind of stealing,

which is the abduction that Ravana committed.

(We are led to believe that Rama meant only this

for the following reason.

In Ruma’s case and in Tara’s case,

the winning of the women happened after winning a combat.

And such exchange seemed to have happened smoothly

with the acceptance of the women themselves –

something applicable to the dharma of the species

which they belong to .

Sugreeva did not abandon Ruma

after Vali was slayed,

nor did Ruma think it necessary to demonstrate her pathi vradhai quality.

The abduction of a married woman and the consequence of the same

are of serious dimensions for humans

and no need to say that this applies to the divine couple.

That Vali had failed to contribute his might in stopping it happen

or restoring Sita by his own volition seems to be the

factor being reminded by Rama repeatedly.)

Now let us see the symbolism of this episode.

It is that ‘Dharma is not seen to the eyes of the one who

is steeped in adharma.”

Vali could not see Rama,

the embodiment of Dharma, as

he (Vali) was adharmic (in ways explained).

For such a person,

any punishment or ‘haani’ would seem to

originate from nowhere –

unable to be predicted by the person.

And any release from such a predicament / haani

is possible by atonement only.

This is what Rama did to Vali.

This is what Bheeshma did on the arrow-bed.

To elaborate on this,

history records only three persons as capable of

understanding Dharma,

the course of which is complex

and which is of different nature under different


They are Bheeshma, Yudhishtra and Vidura.

( We don’t include Rama here for He is a

complete embodiment of Dharma,

not just one who has understood dharma)

Of these three, Bheeshma stuck to swadharma

at the expense of para-dharma and

allowed vasthra –haaran to take place.

Yudhishtra sacrificed swadharma to aid in

the victory of Dharma

when he eliminated Drona from the battle field.

Vidura luckily did not face a dilemma of this sort,

but he had stuck to dharma always.

Of the first two, Bheeshma had to do atonement

for having sacrificed dharma at the altar of his swa-dharma.

When there is a clash between dharma and swa-dharma,

only dharma must be upheld - not swa-dharma.

If one wants to stick to swa dharma at the cost of Dharma,

one has to face the consequences.

Bheeshma did that.

He could not save the cause for which he sacrificed dharma,

nor were the factors connected to his swa-dharma

of help to him at a crucial juncture.

I refer to the boon he received about choosing the

time of his death which was related to his

(swa-dharma) vow of protecting the throne.

In the war, when he was being continuously hit,

initially he heard the

vasus and rishis saying him

that his end had come.

Listening to them he decided to leave out his pranan.

But before he could do that,

his mother Ganga devi sent rishis and others

as swans to tell the falling Bheeshma

not to leave the pranan as it was dhakshinayana.

Why did this confusion occur?

Were the rishis wrong when they initially said

that he would die?

Or did he hear them wrong - something they said and he heard it as soemthing else?

How could such a confusion occur?

The only plausible reason is that Bheeshma who

was capable of listening to the voice of the divine,

could not listen to the voice of

dharma at a crucial juncture!!

That is why what he

heard at the end confused him

(he lost the power to decipher correctly keeping other factors

such as the season in mind) .

The bed of arrows was a prayaschittha for not having talked right-

for not having upheld Dharma - even if it means to sacrifice his swa-dharma

(of the vow to stand by the throne)

when Draupadi's modesty was outraged with several wicked eyes piercing her body.

During every moment on that bed he was recollecting

how dharma can not seen

by the one on the side of adharma.

The atonement got itself manifested in his kind

words to karna.

What he failed to do, he requested Karna to do.

A search like this on the question of dharma is what

Rama has perhaps expected us to do.

It is perhaps to drive home hard lessons in an effective way,

He made Vali vadam a controversial (only seemingly) one!!


Anonymous said...

Very good analytical studies show the perfectness of Lord Rama. Keep it up! Jai Sri Ram!!

jeevagv said...

That was good and well written, Thanks!

Jayasree Saranathan said...

Thanks friends.

Geetha Sambasivam said...

wonderful analysis, Thanks for the article. Really a good one.

Anonymous said...

Slaying of Vaali - Rajaji's comment:

"All who are born must die. This is the law. I do not therefore grieve for my death. Still, your sin is great in killing me in this treacherous way."
Vaali, son of Indra, reproached Rama thus with his dying breath. And all this is fully set out by Valmeeki, the divine poet, as well as by Kamban. Against this accusation, what defence could Rama offer?

Vaalmeeki has it that Rama gave some explanation with which Vaali was satisfied. But I am omitting all this as pointless and pray that the learned may forgive me. What I think is that an avataar is an avataar and that among the sorrows that the Lord and His consort had to endure in their earthly incarnation, this liability to have their actions weighed on the earthly scale is a part.

Earlier, while narrating the Soorpanakha episode (where Lakshmana disfigures her face), Rajaji observes:

"Let those who find faults in Rama see faults. If these critics faultlessly pursue dharma and avoid in their own lives the flaws they discover in Rama, the bhaktas of Sri Rama will indeed welcome it with joy. If they exhibit the virtues of Rama and add to these more virtues and greater flawlessness, who can complain?" [..........................] Raama erred in running after the magic deer to please his wife. Consequent to this, difficulties and sorrows and conflicts of duty pursued him. If we keep in mind that when God takes a lower and limited form by His own ordinance, limitations follow and we should not be confused thereby. This is my humble view as against other explanations propounded by the pious."

Jayasree Saranathan said...

I don't agree with Rajaji's explanation of Vali vadam. Ramayana is specifically about dharma in every way. When the Parama purusha was born as Rama, the vedas which always see the Parama purusha were also born as Ramayana. So says a vachan.

Outwardly certain issues may not look agreeable to the lay man's eye.
We have to 'see' into the inner purport.
If we have the basic assumptions right in our analysis we will see the rationale of many a controversy.
The basic assumption is that Rama was Param purusha Himself and He could not have faltered in Dharma in any way. If it seems to be otherwise, we have look deeper to unearth the truth of the Parama purusha. I have attempted that in this post.

Harish Kumar said...

Explanation from Aurobindo's perspective

Please find below the explanation of the Killing of Vaali in an "adharmic" fashion, from Sri Aurobindo's perspective

Jayasree Saranathan said...

Thanks for the link Mr Harish kumar. It seems I have to hold an account to access it. Is it possible to send the contents of the file by other means?

Harish Kumar said...

Before you decide on what Vaali did was dharmic or adharmic, you need to decide on what you mean by "dharma?". What particular dharma do you expect Lord Rama to follow? Can you please tell me that?

There is no need to have an account to download files from there. If you can send me your email id, I can send the file to you.

Jayasree Saranathan said...

Dear Mr Harish Kumar,
To know what I mean by Dharma or what Dharma means, kindly browse my blog using he search engine. That will give you some idea about the Dharma that Rama followed in Vaali vadham.

I could not open nor even access that document. Please check and tell me how to access it.

Jayasree Saranathan said...

The current happenings in 2G scam might give some understanding about the Dharma in Rama killing Vaali.

In the 2 G Spectrum scam, A.Raja is charged with a misdemeanor. But the first onus lies on the Prime Minister as to how he allowed that scam to happen. What action did he take to curb it at the first instance? Could such a scam have happened without his knowledge? If it had happened without his knowledge, what did he do after it was brought to his attention (by Dr Swamy's petition)?

These are the first questions that were raised. Raja will any way be hooked but, as the PM,under whom this scam has happened, he must have taken the first step to question the misdemeanor that happened in his government.

Same thing with the crime of abduction of Sita. Ravana had crossed Vaali's territory with Sita. Shugreeva had seen that. And Vaali must have been informed of that almost immediately. Vaali had been more powerful than Ravana in that Ravana was once overpowered by Vaali. Yet Ravana had the audacity to commit twin crimes of taking away a married woman and crossing Valli's territory unauthorized. The crime happened in Vaali's jurisdiction. If only Vaali had acted immediately, Ravana could have left behind Sita and fled.

Or if it is said that Vaali came to know of that abduction only later, he could have taken Ravana to task for committing the crime in his jurisdiction. By turning a Nelson's eye to the crime, like how Manmohan singh did to the scam, Vaali invites for himself the first censure.

The effect that Vaali could have created on Ravana is well revealed later - (1)when Hanuman reminded Ravana (sundhara khanda - while produced before Ravana by Indrajut) of his earlier defeat at Vaali's hands and how such a Vaali was killed by Rama and
(2)when Mandodhari reminded Ravana before he went to the battle that it was Rama who killed his tormentor Vaali and therefore it would be wise to seek truce by letting off Sita.

All these show that Vaali could have checked Ravana, but he didn't and therefore the first blow was wielded on Vaali.

Jayasree Saranathan said...

Mr Harish kumar,

Vaali vadham is being considered as one of the two indefensible issues in Ramayana. There are a number of explanations for Vaali vadham in vogue for hundreds of years, given by commentators and Acharyas. Unfortunately almost all of them consider Vaali vadham as adharmic. But this article is a result of my strong conviction that Rama can never be wrong. Any article speaking of vaali vadham as adharmic can not be true nor do justice to Rama as the embodiment of Dharma. The matter ends at that.

Jayasree Saranathan said...

Mr Harish kumar,

I read your article in this link:-

Harish Kumar said...

My article clearly explains Vaali Vadham from the point of view of medieval acharya like Madhva and modern Rishi like Aurobindo. Both of them have refuted the idea that his actions were adharmic. They have clearly stated what he did was correct. You have to understand dharma is not morality and certainly not the moral ideas we human beings imagine. Dharma demands that infra-humans are attacked from behind. The issue is not whether someone was attacked from front or behind, there are much larger issues that need to be taken into account. Of course if you want to pick holes, you can pick holes in anybody and everything.

Harish Kumar said...

"But why did he choose the mode
that was not fitting to the stature of one like Him?"

The mode chosen was fitting to the stature of Vaali. Rama engaged and defeated better people from the front.

S.Desikan said...

Very enlightening analysis. I, like you, couldn't accept any reasoning that didn't consider Vali Vatham as 'dharmic'. Your reasoning is well thought out and answers the question for me. Thanks very much.

Unknown said...

Is there a similar symbolism involved in asking Sita Devi to self immolate to prove herself?

Jayasree Saranathan said...

@ Dr Pravin,

Not exactly a symbolism, but there are meanings behind why agni pravesam was done, at Sita's own behest. Read this article of mine - where you will get the idea.

ramesh said...

I still have one basic doubt. Can anyone clarify pls? Why should Rama directly go to punishment stage for Vali without the process of Sama, Dhana and Bedham? Was he prejudiced against him?

Jayasree Saranathan said...

No Mr Ramesh. Rama gave ample chances to Vali to retract and think. The first time he didn't hit him saying that he could not differentiate between Sugreeva and Vali. The 2nd time Vali was called for duel by Sugreeva with Rama backing him. Vali must have gauged the effect of Rama's presence. Moreover Vali' wife Tara counseled him not to confront Sugreeva as long as Rama stood by him. Tara's advice to Vali and Mandodari's advice to Ravana just before the war are articulated by olden commentators (acharyas) as best examples of how Rama (God)gives a long rope to offenders before finally showing them the door. There is ample time to rectify and repent for one's mistakes. For many offences that we do in our present life the retribution comes only in future births. There is still time to mend our ways and remedy our ill-works in the present birth itself. Vali and Ravana are examples that God (of Kala Purush) is very patient with us and our mis-deeds and mis- thoughts.

Seshachalam G. 81 said...

In kamban treatment ,(tamil) at the end
Of the legal war Vali asks "why yo killed hy hiding behind the tree?
There was no answer and only laxman replied. Vali ignored that explanation
But he realised the answer from the silence of our lives we have received good and bad by HIS WILL.That includes Birth and Death.we have been questioning these things all the time from our limited human vision.We do not get convincing Vali vadham the God has killed him choosing that method.But unlike God ,Rama(human )form appeared before him and tried to explain what he did as GOD.When he failed he kept Silence.Vali a very learned and religious person for a moment mentally thought that SILENCE
Is the VOICE of GOD and realised the eternal TRUTH and got enlightened.What ever he uttered that was only voice of the enlightened.Kamban achieved this different from Valmiki where Vali was convinced by Rama in the End.
Seshachalam T.N.had presented this way
Vali Vadham.
3rd march 2019

Aruna said...

Superb explanation which I haven't seen or heard till now... 🙏 Dharma is too too deep. Also liked the post-script on Bhishma and how he suffered due to his upholding swadharma over dharma...

But in today's world, most of us are keeping mum seeing so much adharma around just to follow our swa-dharma... So such fate awaits us, maybe...