Indic Varta

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He recognizes the inescapable force taking him towards his end. Maricha is aware that refusing Ravana would result in immediate death in the hands of the cruel asura, and obeying Ravana would lead to certain death by the arrows of Rama. His destiny is sealed. He has to die. But under whose feet must he now breathe his last, leave his final impression?

Ramo Vigrahavan Dharmaha

A Conversation from Valmiki Ramayana: Maricha and Ravana

“Ramo Vigrahavan Dharmaha”- These words comes from Rama’s opponent camp, uttered by Maricha in Valmiki Ramayana, in front of Ravana. The whole shloka translates like this- “Rama is Dharma personified. He is good, i.e. he is always keen to help others; his truthfulness is his valour. He is the king of all men, just like Indra is the king of gods”. The point to be noted is that, it is interesting that someone like Maricha, whose brother and mother are killed by the hands of Rama, is now praising Rama himself. And, that is also not in any ordinary language but directly addressing him as an embodiment of Dharma. Ravana has approached Maricha for help in bowed head. Here, as per Tuilsidasji language- “When a bad person bends backwards & speaks sweetly, it is dangerous just like the bending down of Bow & Noose”. But, we find instead of supporting his king, Maricha is discouraging Ravana. He repeatedly warns him not to indulge in any conflict with Rama and continues to express his admiration for the prince of Ayodhya. Finally, due to threats from Ravana’s side, who was obviously not pleased with Maricha’s suggestions, Maricha had to come to a discission. His past experinces made him well aware how he had to narrowly escape death, falling under Rama’s catch and that also not once, but twice. So, it would be quiet impossible to escape and save his life this time. Maricha, who is playing a very small character in the epic, is left with an unwilling tight spot to choose between devil and the deep sea. But still, it is undeniable that he is the right person to understand the character traits of Rama as he had encountered his strength and valour firsthand.


The following conversation is directly taken from Valmiki Ramayana, where we find Mareecha dissuading Ramavana recalling the righteousness in-built in Rama’s character. From the whole discourse we can find how Mareecha has made a contrast between Rama and Ravana where the former one is ‘never unfaithful to his duty, nor is he avaricious nor wicked, nor the obloquy of the warrior caste’ and ‘he is duty personified; he is virtuous, and this great hero is the Lord of the World’. He applies so many wonderful adjectives that if in turn could be strung in a verse would have been enough to acknowldge the magnificence, virtue and divine attributes of Dasarathnandana.  Pronouncing every syllable with clear delight and profound admiration the long list includes-—“mahaveeryam, gunonnatam, mahendra varunopamam, dharmatma., narasimha:, padmapatra nibhekshana, sriman, balachandra, aklishta karmana”. Also, the demon knows about Sita's unparalleled splendor very well and reminds that anyone on her side would be invincible- —“aprameyo hi tat tejo yasya sa janakatmaja”. Maricha sees Sita as radiant and unapproachable, equating her to a blazing fire- —“deeptasyeva hutasanasya Sita sumadhyama”. The Divine duo is inseparable like the brilliance of the Sun can’t be taken out from its possessor—“prabham iva vivasvata:”

Without a question, Rama occupies Maricha's constant obsession. Is that out of fear of Rama's deadly arrows or the pleasure derived from contemplating the divine form of the prince? Maricha, akin to Brahmagni or the divine fire, perceives the presence of Rama in everything around him-“Rama bhootam idam sarvam aranym pratibhati me”. He envisions not just one Rama but thousands, filling all directions, earth, and skies-“api Rama sahasrani bheeta: pasyami Ravana!”. Even in the forest's every flora, Maricha sees Rama's divine presence-“Vrikshe vrikshe cha pasyami cheera krishnajinambaram girheeta dhanusham Ramam pAsa hastam ivAntakam”. He feels blessed to witness Rama while sleeping also-“Ramam eva hi pasyami rakshasesvara! Drishtva svapna gatam ramam udbhavami vichetana:”. The demon is so deeply absorbed in the thoughts of Rama that the very sound of words starting with "Ra" triggers thoughts of the Lord in his mind -“Rakara adini namani rama trastasya ravana! ratnani cha rathaschaiva trasam sanjanayanti me”

Whereas, on the other hand, Ravana was ill-fated according to Maricha, since he was mistaking Rama ‘to be a puny mortal to be easily triumphed over, was in fact a warrior of matchless magnificence and peerless prowess’. He reminds the Lanka’s lord that a king is liable to establish the best example of righteousness and good repute of his subjects. His foremost duty is to protect others. The violent, arrogance and hot-headed way with which Ravana has been performing his actions raises question about his kingdom’s future survival.

Maricha's monologue in the given passage touches upon various aspects of social, political, and personal ethics, offering valuable insights for the discerning reader. The saint turned Rakshasa’s highlights are also relevant today as we can relate him with those friends, relatives, guides or teachers who provide best solutions, gives good advices,  instead of just saying pleasing words or the words we want to listen from them, that favours our ego, while dealing with harsh truths or difficult choices in life. We all know that now-a-days there is a scarcity of honest voices willing to express bitter truths, and even if they exist, they often find no audience. In deciding to go along with Ravana's plan, Maricha makes a calculated choice. So it might seem that despite not being a fundamentally changed individual, he might have chosen to align with Ravana, possibly anticipating that facing Rama's shot is more preferable instead of accepting Ravana's backslash.

Now, here we can doubt that Maricha's decision is driven more by a fear of death than any genuine transformation or devotion to Rama. While he acknowledges some of Rama's great qualities, one can argue that he is not a saint, as evidenced by his secluded life out of fear rather than a sense of spiritual dedication. Moreover, a saint must not run away from God. This proves he is a charalatan. Besides, Rama was not someone who would kill a saint. So, Maricha was definitely a demon inside, right? But still! Here, we must not forget that the complexity of Maricha's situation lies in the inevitability of his fate.

He recognizes the inescapable force taking him towards his end. Maricha is aware that refusing Ravana would result in immediate death in the hands of the cruel asura, and obeying Ravana would lead to certain death by the arrows of Rama. His destiny is sealed. He has to die. But under whose feet must he now breathe his last, leave his final impression? From Ramayana we find, faced with these grim options, Maricha chooses to meet his end in front of Rama. This proves us whom he truly admired and regarded as an embodiment of virtue. This choice reflects Maricha's acceptance of his fate and a preference to perish in the hands of the one he admires and considers virtuous and the one who is the most worthy to take his life. His parting words to Ravana, expressing his readiness to die at Rama's hands, sum up his sentiments/self-realization, indicating to whom he had actually surrendered clearly shows or in other words, whom he ultimately affirmed to be “vigrahavan dharma”, and tells Ravana too- “mam nihatya tu ramascha na chirat tvam vadhishyati anena krita krityosmi mriye yat arina hat”.



Chapter 37 - Marica seeks to persuade Ravana from his Purpose

Hearing the words of that Sovereign of the Titans, the wise and eloquent Marica answered him, saying:—

“O King, those who have recourse to flattery are easy to find, but rare are those who are willing to listen to that speech which is severe yet salutory. Assuredly you dost not know Rama and art not conversant with his great qualities, which equal those of Mahendra and Varuna.

“You are thoughtless and your spies are incompetent; how canst you dwell in security with your titans, O Friend? Is not Rama in his wrath able to rid the world of titans? Will not the daughter of Janaka prove to be that which will determine your death? Will not Sita become the cause of a great catastrophe?

“Will not the city of Lanka perish with you and your titans, since it has you who followest the dictates of your passions, who art a slave to your senses and who knowest no restraint, as its lord? An unprincipled monarch, such as you, is the slave of his desires and in his perversity heeds only evil counsels, thus placing his subjects and his kingdom in jeopardy.

“Rama has neither been disowned by his sire, nor is he unfaithful to his duty, nor is he avaricious nor wicked, nor the obloquy of the warrior caste. The son of Kaushalya is neither void of loyalty nor of other virtues, nor is he given to anger, nor does he seek to harm others. Knowing his father to be deceived by Kaikeyi, yet filled with filial devotion he said ‘I will redeem his pledge’ and went into exile to the forest. To please Kaikeyi and his father Dasaratha, he renounced his throne and prerogatives in order to enter the Dandaka Forest. Rama is neither passionate nor is he an ignorant man, whose senses are unsubdued; what has been related to you is false and should never have been uttered. Rama is duty personified; he is virtuous, and this great hero is the Lord of the World, as Indra is the Chief of the Gods. By virtue of her chastity and her devotion, Vaidehi protects Rama as Prabha the Sun, how canst you think of bearing her away by force? Do not enter the inextinguishable fire of Rama, who on the battlefield employs his shafts as flames and his bow as fuel. No matter how great thine anger, it behoves you not to approach that invincible warrior, bearing his bow, his countenance inflamed with ire, furnished with every weapon, the Destroyer of his Foes!

“Unless you are willing to forfeit your kingdom, thine happiness and life itself, that is dear to all, do not approach Rama, who resembles Antaka himself. How canst you bear away the daughter of Janaka from the forest, who is protected by Rama’s bow of immeasurable power? The beloved spouse of that Lion among Men, whose chest is broad, is dearer to him than his own life, and she is wholly devoted to him. The Princess of Mithila of slender waist will never be torn from the arms of that great warrior who resembles a flame in a lit brazier.

“Why enter upon such a vain endeavour, O Great King? Should Rama single you out on the battlefield, all would be over with you. Since it concerns your life, your fortune and your kingdom, heretofore invincible, take counsel with your ministers with Bibishana at their head. In honour reflect and weigh carefully the merits and demerits, gain and loss, of this matter. Compare your valour with that of Raghava! Consider what is to thine advantage and then do what you think right. It does not appear fitting to me, that you should meet the son of the King of Koshala on the battlefield. I counsel you for thine own good, O King of the Night Rangers!”

Chapter 39 - Marica again seeks to dissuade Ravana from pursuing his Design

“O Ravana I have told you how my life was spared; now hear what happened further.

“I was in no way daunted by this event and, accompanied by two demons, I entered the forest of Dandaka disguised as a deer. There I roamed about living on the flesh of ascetics, visiting the sacred retreats, the sacrificial fires and places of worship, sowing terror amongst the sages, whom I persecuted. Growing exceedingly rapacious, I slew those ascetics, drinking their blood and devouring their flesh, my cruelty rendering me the terror of all the inhabitants of the forest.

“As I roamed here and there throwing obstacles in the way of the religious rites, I encountered Rama living a life of asceticism with the blessed Sita and the mighty Lakshmana, engaged in pious practices and devoted to the welfare of all.

“Filled with contempt for the mighty Rama, who had retired to the forest, and reflecting: ‘So he has now become an ascetic,’ I, remembering my former defeat, filled with anger, rushed at him with lowered horns, in my folly desiring to kill him. But he, swift as Suparna or Anila, drawing his great bow, loosed three sharp and deadly arrows, and these dread shafts with burnished points resembling lightning, flew off as one, thirsting for blood.

“Knowing Rama’s skill and prowess from former times and recognising the peril in which I stood, I ran away and escaped, but the two titans who accompanied me were slain. Having with supreme difficulty evaded Rama’s arrows thus preserving my life, I retired to this place, adopting the path of an ascetic and practising Yoga. From that day, I behold Rama, clothed in bark, wearing a black antelope skin, bearing his bow, in every tree, like unto the God of Death himself carrying his noose! In my terror, I see thousands of Ramas, O Ravana! The whole forest assumes the form of Rama and even in deserted places I behold him ! O Chief of the Titans, in sleep also he appear to me and I start up in fear. Such is the terror he inspires in me, that even those words beginning with the syllable ‘Ra’, such as ‘Ratna’ and ‘Ratha’, fill me with alarm.

“Having recognized the prowess of that descendant of Raghu, I am persuaded that you are not able to withstand him in combat, when even Bali and Namuchi succumbed to him. Whether you dost enter into conflict with him or makest your peace, do not speak his name to me, if you wouldst see me live!

“In this world, there are countless virtuous souls engaged in the practice of Yoga, fulfilling their every duty, who yet perish with those about them through another’s fault. I too, therefore, should be doomed to die for another’s misdeeds! O Ranger of the Night, do what you deemest to be right, but follow you I will not. Truly Rama, who is full of zeal, courage and prowess, will prove to be the destroyer of the titans of this world. Though the wicked-minded Khara of Janasthana was slain by him on account of Shurpanakha, how, in truth, is he to blame for that?

“I have uttered these words for your good and the good of your kinsmen; if you disregards them, you and your people will assuredly perish in combat with Rama!”

Chapter 41 - Marica counsels Ravana further

Thus commanded by the imperious King of the Titans, Marica replied in bold and fearless tones, saying:—

“What wretch has counselled you to take this course, which will lead to thine extinction, together with your children, your kingdom and your counsellors, O Ranger of the Night? O King, who is that evil person, envious of your good fortune, who seeks to open the portals of death to you? Assuredly he is thine enemy, who in his impotence plots your defeat under the blows of a superior antagonist. What miscreant of evil intent seeks to propel you along the path of self-destruction? The counsellors, who do not dissuade you from your fell design, merit death and yet live. Upright ministers ever restrain a king, who following his own desires, enters on an evil path. You who should thus be guided art blind.

“By the grace of their sovereign, ministers attain justice, profit, pleasure and renown, but these objects are never found, O Ravana, if a king be lacking in virtue, and his people suffer nought but misfortune.

“O You, Foremost of Conquerors, the king is the root of the righteousness and good repute of his subjects, he should therefore always be protected by them. No kingdom survives under a sovereign who is violent, overbearing and intemperate, O Ranger of the Night. Those ministers who counsel violence perish with their chief, as a chariot is precipitated into an abyss by a reckless driver. Many pious persons in this world, engaged in their duties, have met with destruction with their relatives through the fault of others. A cruel despot is as unable to protect his subjects as a jackal is unable to defend a herd of deer. The titans, whose lord you are, foolish, ruthless and a slave to your passions, are doomed.

“It is not I who should be pitied for this unexpected calamity that has overtaken me, but you, who with thine army will soon meet with destruction. Having been struck down by Rama, he will speedily despatch you. My mission accomplished, I shall meet my death under the blows of thine adversary. Rest assured that I shall perish as soon as I appear before Rama and know well that the abduction of Sita will cost you your life as well as that of your kinsmen.

“If you succeedest in bearing Sita away from the hermitage with mine aid, it is the end of you, of Lanka and of the titans.

“Though seeking your good and desiring to be of assistance to you, you dost disregard my words, as those for whom the last hour has struck do not heed the counsel of their friends.”

 


References:

1.     The Right-thinking Rakshasa, Ramanuja List Archive: Message 00030 Dec 2003, Ramanuja List Archive: Re: [Oppiliappan] Fw: The Right-thinking Rakshasa (ibiblio.org)

2.     Fw: The Right-thinking Rakshasa - The Sri Vaishnava Forum - IndiaDivine.org

3.     Aranya-kanda [Book 3] (wisdomlib.org)

4.     Maricha the Golden Deer in Ramayana Story (universalteacher.com)

5.     Maricha – Saint OR Demon ? – sanatana bodha (wordpress.com)

6.     Ramayana of Valmiki by Hari Prasad Shastri, www.wisdomlib.org




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