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Lord Rama, the seventh avatara of Vishnu is known as a personality who always keeps His word. However, the following verses from the Valmiki Ramayana struck me.

चतुर्दश हि वर्षाणि वत्स्यामि विजने वने ।
मधुमूलफलैर्जीवन्हित्वा मुनिवदामिषम् ॥ २-२०-२९

I shall live in a solitary forest like a sage for fourteen years, leaving off meat and living with roots, fruits and honey.

The above verse was said by Lord Rama to Kausalya before going into exile. However, after this we find these verses which contradicts the above verse:

तौ तत्र हत्वा चतुरो महामृगान्_
वराहमृश्यम् पृषतं महारुरुम् ।
आदाय मेध्यं त्वरितं बुभुक्षितौ
वासाय काले ययतुर्वनस्पतिम् ॥ २-५२-१०२

Having hunted there four deer, namely Varaaha, Rishya, Prisata; and Mahaaruru (the four principal species of deer) and taking quickly the portions that were pure, being hungry as they were, Rama and Lakshmana reached a tree to take rest in the evening.

समाश्वस मुहूर्तं तु शक्यं वस्तुमिह त्वया ॥ 3-47-22
आगमिष्यति मे भर्ता वन्यमादाय पुष्कलम् ।
रुरून्गोधान्वराहांश्च हत्वाऽऽदायाऽमिषान्बहून् ॥ 3-47-23

Be comfortable for a moment, here it is possible for you to make a sojourn, and soon my husband will be coming on taking plentiful forest produce, and on killing stags, mongooses, wild boars he fetches meat, aplenty. [3-47-22b, 23]

So these verse appear to be very contradictory to the promise made by Lord Rama to His mother. But it is highly unlikely that He would not keep his word. Is the translation wrong? Or is it that Lord Rama did take meat in the forest? If so why? Apologies to anyone offended by my question including to Lord Rama.

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    Don't create new tags unless necessary. – Sarvabhouma Jun 16 '17 at 10:32
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    beacuse more than 10 verses support the fact of meat. only this verse says otherwise. – Rakesh Joshi Jun 16 '17 at 11:46
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    The translation seems incorrect. It does not say leaving off meat as far as I can tell. – user1195 Oct 3 '17 at 13:56
  • Could you tell where you got Sanskrita verses of Ramayana – user9392 Oct 3 '17 at 16:05
  • @AnuragSingh I got the above verses from here: valmikiramayan.net – Surya Kanta Bose Chowdhury Oct 4 '17 at 4:50
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चतुर्दश हि वर्षाणि वत्स्यामि विजने वने |

मधु मूल फलैः जीवन् हित्वा मुनिवद् आमिषम् || 2.20.29

The word Amisham is translated as meat by the translator. But Amisham also has several other meanings.

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See, it has many other meanings like fees, lust, desire, etc. Rama might have said he will live without lust.

In case of Valmiki Ramayana 5.36.41:

न मांसं राघवो भुङ्क्ते न चापि मधुसेवते |

वन्यं सुविहितं नित्यं भक्तमश्नाति पञ्चमम् || ५-३६-४१

Meaning:

"Rama is not eating meat, nor indulging even in spirituous liquor. Everyday, in the evening, he is eating the food existing in the forest, well arranged for him."

If you simply read this verse, this verse may seem to be saying he never ate meat. However, let's read the subsequent verses for context.

न एव दंशान् न मशकान् न कीटान् न सरी सृपान् |

राघवो अपनयेत् गत्रात् त्वत् गतेन अन्तः आत्मना || ५-३६-४२

Meaning:

"With his mind wholly devoted to you, Rama is not even driving away forest-flies from his body, nor mosquitoes nor insects nor reptiles from his body."

नित्यम् ध्यान परो रामो नित्यम् शोक परायणः |

न अन्यच् चिन्तयते किंचित् स तु काम वशम् गतः || ५-३६-४३

Meaning:

"Rama always cogitates on something or the other. He is forever engaged in sorrow. He is enamored with the god of love and thinks of nothing else."

Here, Hanuman is describing to Sita what Rama is doing after she was kidnapped. So, after Sita was kidnapped, Rama stopped eating meat, he is not drinking liquors, he is not even driving away insects from his body. So the context here is after Sita was kidnapped, Rama did all these.

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This is what one commentary called Śiromaṇi, by Vaṃśīdhara Śivasahāya on the Rāmāyaṇa says on the verse in question:

Rama seeks Kausalya’s blessings 2.20.13-34

Rama said that he was worthy of vistara or a seat made of twenty-five blades of darbha grass. The royal seat did not fascinate him. The inhabitants of the forest Dandaka, are threatened by rakshasas. “Now, I must go to the forest to free them of their fright. I pray my departure would not cause sorrow to you, to Vaidehi, and Lakshmana. Abandoning āmiṣa or the objects of royal enjoyment, I will dwell in the forest leading the life of an ascetic, said Rama.

The commentator notes that the word āmiṣa here does not refer to meat. This is used in the sense of an object of enjoyment.

However, the majority of translators and commentators do not agree with this view.

A good comparison of how different commentators interpret this verse can be found in the notes section of The Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmīki: An Epic of Ancient India. Ayodhyākāṇḍa, Volume 2 translated by Padma Shri Sheldon I. Pollock.

15. For fourteen years I must dwell in the desolate forest, living on honey, fruit, and roots, giving up meat like a sage.

Notes:

15. "giving up meat like a sage" hitvā munivad āmiṣam: Since Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa will later break their fast by eating boar, antelope, gazelle, and deer (46.79; they will eat meat elsewhere, 49.14, etc.), Cm, Cg are forced to interpret: like a sage, Rāma will have to give up finely prepared meats — but not plain meat. Ck, Ct suggest, " 'like a sage,' that is, give up meat except at śrāddha feasts" (see note on 69.22), but this appears to contradict Rāma's actual behavior later on, though see note on 48.15. Cr [Śiromaṇi] and Cs try, characteristically, to obliterate the signification "meat" altogether.

Given the above, to answer your questions:

  1. Is the translation wrong?

    No.

  2. Did Rāma take meat in the forest? If so, why?

    Yes. He's a kṣatriya; he's allowed to eat meat. See Manu 5.27-5.35.

  3. By consuming meat, did Rāma break the promise he made to Kauśalyā?

    No, if you go by the Cm (Tattvadīpikā) and Cg (Bhūṣaṇa) commentaries that interpret "giving up meat like a sage" to mean giving up finely prepared meat but not all meat.

    Yes, if you think Rāma should have stayed off of meat completely. Then why did he break his promise? Probably because he was more worried about keeping himself alive. As Medhātithi's commentary on Manu 5.27 says:

    ‘When his life in in danger’ — From the context it follows that what is meant is that—‘in the event of his not eating meat without worshipping the gods, and no other food being available, if there be a fear of his losing his life, either though disease of through hunger, one may eat the cow, the sheep and the goat.’ This rule is based upon the Vedic declaration that ‘one shall protect himself from everything.’ So that under the circumstances, if one omits to eat meat, he becomes his own murderer; and suicide has been forbidden by such text as—(a) ‘One shall protect himself from everything’; (b) ‘Hence the man, expecting to live to the fullest extent of human life, shall never kill himself with a desire to proceed to heaven; as such an act would make him unfit for heaven’;—all which shows that by eating even forbidden meat to save his life, one does not incur sin. Says the Mantra also (Iśopaniṣad 3) — ‘Those who kill themselves go, after death, to those regions that are covered by blind darkness and are fit only for demons.”

    When there is danger to life, even the Student may eat meat; and for him his young age would necessitate the performance of the expiatory rite as prescribed in the text—‘If the Student ever eats meat and honey, etc.’ (1?.158). Vyāsa has declared that when there is tear of losing one’s life through hanger, one may eat even forbidden meat; and by the instance of the ‘dog’s thigh’ (eaten by Viśvāmitra) it is indicated that such meat may be eaten, but once only.

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Okay let's consider references one by one:

तौ तत्र हत्वा चतुरः महा मृगान् | वराहम् ऋश्यम् पृषतम् महा रुरुम् | आदाय मेध्यम् त्वरितम् बुभुक्षितौ| वासाय काले ययतुर् वनः पतिम् || २-५२-१०२

Having hunted there four deer, namely Varaaha, Rishya, Prisata; and Mahaaruru (the four principal species of deer) and taking quickly the portions that were pure, being hungry as they were, Rama and Lakshmana reached a tree to take rest in the evening.

Above taking the portions that were pure -> does it say taking portions from the animal itself? They went hunting animals as well as food (plants/fruits) no?

Ok how will you read this: "having done all his work and quickly finishing his pizza slice, Tom went off to sleep" ... will you say Tom worked in a pizza store?

समाश्वस मुहूर्तम् तु शक्यम् वस्तुम् इह त्वया || 3-47-22 आगमिष्यति मे भर्ता वन्यम् आदाय पुष्कलम् | रुरून् गोधान् वराहान् च हत्वा आदाय अमिषान् बहु || 3-47-23

Be comfortable for a moment, here it is possible for you to make a sojourn, and soon my husband will be coming on taking plentiful forest produce, and on killing stags, mongooses, wild boars he fetches meat, aplenty. [3-47-22b, 23]

Above "soon my husband will be coming on taking plentiful forest produce" is that not referring to plants/fruits? They were killing wild animals to protect themselves as they too were living there. No?

Aamisham means meat and it also means enjoyable sense object like kingdom; it also means immense sense gratification and very pleasant and dear sense objects. Why translate this word only to mean meat? Isn't it biased translation?

Maamsa means meat and it also means pulp of a fruit or root. Roots are quite commonly roasted in fire and eaten.

It is same thing as showing a glass of water half empty to someone, some will say half empty, some will say half full and there are some who will say enough to quench my thirst. No? Don't go by English translations, they themselves say BUT in one way and PUT in another way.

Now read this:

न मांसं राघवो भुङ्क्ते न चापि मधुसेवते | वन्यं सुविहितं नित्यं भक्तमश्नाति पञ्चमम् ||

Rama is not eating meat, nor indulging even in spirituous liquor. Everyday, in the evening, he is eating the food existing in the forest, well arranged for him.

  • "Having hunted four deer AND quickly taking portions " implies that the portions are from the deer meat, in general. – Santanu Debnath Oct 3 '17 at 15:44
  • Again you are going by the english translation why? – Just_Do_It Oct 3 '17 at 15:45
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    "....Above "soon my husband will be coming on taking plentiful forest produce" is that not referring to plants/fruits?...." Well the verse refers to Stags, mongooses, wild boars, also. It is clearly the Sanskrit translation. – user9392 Oct 3 '17 at 16:00
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    The question here is not about eating non-veg or not it's whether you promised that you will not but you still did...right? You expect Lord Rama to break promises that too made to his own mother....nope :) – Just_Do_It Oct 3 '17 at 20:59
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    You can add verses from this chapter. Rama offers balls made of Ingudi fruit to his father. Son offers things which he eats. So, it implies that He was eating fruits. Also 3-19-14 shloka "tarunau rupa sampannau sukumaarau mahaabalau"... THere. Surpanakha mentions Rama, Lakshmana were subsistent on phala, moola (fruits and roots). – Sarvabhouma Oct 4 '17 at 5:39
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You're missing context in all of these verses- First of all amisham has multiple meanings- it means meat but also pleasurable-enjoyable-royal things.

Lord rama promises that he will live like a common person disregarding his royal status like a hermit.

Let's look at the verses you have given-

"samaashvasa muhuurtam tu shakyam vastum iha tvayaa || 3-47-22 aagamiSyati me bhartaa vanyam aadaaya puSkalam | ruruun godhaan varaahaan ca hatvaa aadaaya amiSaan bahu || 3-47-23

Be comfortable for a moment, here it is possible for you to make a sojourn, and soon my husband will be coming on taking plentiful forest produce, and on killing stags, mongooses, wild boars he fetches meat, aplenty. [3-47-22b, 23]"

This is from aranya kanda, here Sita is talking with ravana in form of Brahmin. She is telling that her husband will come soon with "amesha" here amesha most likely means good food and not meat because offcource a Brahmin will not eat meat, the produce she is talking about is fruits. Why is it mentioned that ram kills animals? well for protection offcource.

The other verses are from ayodhya kand-

"aiNeyam maamsam aahR^itya shaalaam yakSyaamahe vayam | kartvyam vaastushamanam saumitre cirajiivabhiH || 2-56-22 Oh, Lakshmana! Bring the meat of an antelope. We shall perform a purifactory ceremony while entering the house. Which is to be done by those who wish to live long.

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mR^igam hatvaa.a.anaya kshipram lakshmaNeha shubhekshaNa kartavyaH shaastradR^iSTo hi vidhirdarmamanusmara || 2-56-23

Oh, large-eyed Lakshmana! Killing the antelope quickly, bring it here. The prescribed rite according to scriptural point of view indeed is to be performed. Keep in mind the sacred obligation.

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bhraaturvachana maajJNaaya lakshmaNaH paraviirahaa | cakaara sa yathoktam ca tam raamaH punarabraviit || 2-56-24

Lakshmana the slayer of enemies, understanding his brother’s words, acted as instructed. Rama spoke again to Lakshmana as follows.

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iNeyam shrapayasvaitachcchaalaam yakshyamahe vayam | tvarasaumya muhuurto.ayam dhruvashcha divaso.apyayam || 2-56-25

Oh, gentle brother! Boil this antelope’s meat. We shall worship the leaf-hut. This day and this instant also are of a distinctive character. Be quick.

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sa lakSmaNaH kR^iSNa mR^igam hatvaa medhyam pataapavaan | atha cikSepa saumitriH samiddhe jaata vedasi || 2-56-26

Then, Lakshmana the strong man and son of Sumitra, killing a holy back antelope, tossed it in an ignited fire.

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tam tu pakvam samaaj~naaya niSTaptam chinna shoNitam | lakSmaNaH puruSa vyaaghram atha raaghavam abraviit || 2-56-27

Feeling certain that it is cooked and heated thoroughly with no blood remaining, Lakshmana spoke to Rama the lion among man as follows:

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ayam kR^iSNaH samaapta angaH shR^itaH kR^iSNa mR^igo yathaa | devataa deva samkaasha yajasva kushalo hi asi || 2-56-28

This black antelope, with its complete limbs, has been cooked completely by me. Oh, Rama resembling God! Worship the concerned deity, as you are skilled in that act.

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raamaH snaatvaa tu niyataH guNavaan japya kovidaH | samgraheNaakarotsarvaan mantran satraavasaanikaan || 2-56-29

Rama, the virtuous man and the learned man in chanting of sacred spells, after taking bath and with subdued mind, briefly chanted all the sacred scripts to be chanted at the end of a purifactory ceremony.

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iSTvaa devagaNaan sarvaan viveshaavasatham shuciH | babhuuva ca manohlaado raamasyaamitatejasaH || 2-56-30

Worshipping all classes of deities and getting himself purified, Rama entered the house. There was a heartful joy in rama, with his limitless splendour."

These verses are once again taken out of context, It is clear from above verses that they did a purifactory rite and no meat was consumed as food I do not know if animal meat is used for any purifacatory rite?

does "aineyam mamasa" has any other meaning

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Ramayana can be confusing at times, specially from the Kaikeyi episode till Ram's return to Ayodhya.

We must bear in mind all the time that It was Ram and Ram only who had to fulfill the vow of dwelling in the forest as an Ascetic. Sita and Lakshman were only supporting him but were free of any restrictions. Therefore, whereas Sita and Lakshman can sleep on bed, Ram can't. Sita and Lakshman can eat prepared food or city food, but Ram can't. Hell, Ram can't even enter a city, while Sita and Lakshman can. This is the reason Ram did not enter Sugriva's city of Kishkindha, and Ravan's city of Lanka. This conduct of Ram is subtly portrayed throughout Ramayan, and hence may sometiems sound contradictory to the behavior of Lakshman and Sita.

Although I do not understand Samskrit, after going through the verses translation, it is nowhere claimed that Ram himself consumed the meat. Although Ram is free to hunt and bring food for Lakshman and Sita. Therefore, there is no question of Ram breaking his vow of living like an Ascetic.

(Ram had refused to leave his Kshtriya dharma behind as an Ascetic, even after Sita urging him strongly. His idea was that Kshtriya dharma can't be taken away from him even if he has forsaken all the luxury of Rajmahal and come to live in forest. This is also the reason why he claims to Sadhus that they are His subjects and it is his duty to protect them. He later takes vow to protect them and rid Dandak van of all the demons).

  • Attn -ve voters : pls comment so that we can discuss – Shaurabh Bharti Nov 19 '17 at 17:48

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