Friday, February 23, 2024

Ramayana – 4: Vishvamitra takes Rama and Lakshmana to the forest.

After describing the birth of Rama and his boyhood, Valmiki introduces sage Vishvamitra. The sage came to the court of king Dasaratha asking him to send Rama with him for just 10 days of the Vedic ritual that he was going to do in the forest (VR: 1-19-18a). Dasaratha was greatly perturbed that he resisted by saying that Rama was less than 16 years of age, and he could not see warring aptitude in him (VR: 1-20-2).

This raises the scope to determine the age of Rama when he accompanied Vishwamitra. It is also important to know his age at this time because soon he was going to marry Sita. Dasaratha doesn’t say his exact age but only made it known that he was less than 16 years.

Cross-referentially, there is another context in which we get a clue on his age when he was with Vishvamitra. This appears in Aranya Kanda when Mareecha was trying to discourage Ravana from abducting Sita. While describing the valour of Rama, Mareecha told Ravana how Vishvamitra asked Dasaratha to send Rama with him for which Dasaratha replied that Rama was less than 12 years of age (VR: 1-38-6).

In support of this, Mareecha also said that Rama had not yet developed the signs of adulthood at that time such as moustache – which could not be so if he was close to 16 years. Therefore, Mareecha’s version of Rama’s age as less than 12 is reliable. But how old he was at that time is not clearly stated in these two contexts. Let us reconstruct the events after Rama left with Vishvamitra to know if any information of date is available.

The sequence of days after leaving Ayodhya

Let us first list down the sequence of the days since Rama left with Vishvamitra. This travel culminated at Mithila where he broke the Shiva Dhanush. In that context, the proposed star of the marriage day was mentioned. This gives us the limit from which we can trace backwards the days and dates of Rama’s travel with Vishvamitra. For that we must first list down the sequence of days.

·       After leaving Ayodhya, the sage and the two princes spent the 1st night on the banks of river Sarayu.

·       The second night was spent between Sarayu and Ganga.

·       On the 3rd day, they crossed the river Ganga when Vishvamitra told Rama about Tataka. On reaching the forest of Tataka on the 3rd day, Rama killed her. That night they slept in the forest.

·       On the 4th day they reached Siddhashrama, the hermitage of Vishvamitra.

·       From the morning of the 5th day the Vedic ritual of Vishvamitra started.

·       It went on for 6 days and 6 nights.

·       By the time the ritual ended, the 10th night of the stay of the Princes outside Ayodhya was over.

·       The next morning, i.e., on the 11th day, they all started for Mithila.

·       On the 11th night they stayed on the banks of the river Sona.

·       On the 12th day, they continued the travel when Vishvamitra told the story of Ganga, Kartikeya and Sagara.

·       On the 13th day they crossed the river Ganga and reached a city called Vishaala.

·       They were greeted by king Sumati of Vishaala.

·       On the 14th day, they reached Mithila.

·       On the same day, Rama stepped into the hermitage of sage Gautama and redeemed Ahalya from the curse.

·       On the same day, they were received by king Janaka of Mithila.

·       On the next day, (15th day), Rama broke the bow of Shiva.

·       Messengers were sent to Ayodhya to inform Dasaratha. The messengers travelled for three nights.

·       This can be construed as the night of 15th, 16th and 17th.

·       On the 18th day morning the messengers delivered the happy news.

·       Dasaratha started and travelled for 4 days. This can be counted as the 19th, 20th, 21st and 22nd days.

·       On the 23rd day the two kings exchanged pleasantries and informed each other of their respective lineages.

·       On the same day, after this talk, king Janaka said that the day was Magha. The marriage could be conducted on the third day from that day, i.e., on Uttara Phalguni day (VR: 1-71-24).

This is the most crucial input to decipher the date. In the next sarga, king Janaka refers to the star of the wedding day that both Purva Phalguni and Uttara Phalguni were present on that day.

उत्तरे दिवसे ब्रह्मन् फल्गुनीभ्यां मनीषिणः |

वैवाहिकं प्रशंसन्ति भगो यत्र प्रजापतिः || -७२-१३

(Meaning: Oh, Brahman, the savants acclaim that part of the day as the best for wedding ceremonies when both of the pre-Phalguni and post-Phalguni stars are available, and on such a time where post-Phalguni is ruling, for which Bhaga is the presiding deity for progeny..." So said Janaka to the marriage party. [1-72-13])

The presence of Purva Phalguni at the beginning of the day and of Uttara Phalguni following it during the day is a pre-condition to locate the day of wedding of Rama and Sita.

How to find it out?


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