18

According to the Ramayana, when Sugriva approached Lord Rama for help in taking his kingdom and wife back from his monstrous brother Vaali, Lord Rama helped him by killing Vaali from behind without his knowing, while the combat between him and Sugriva was going on.

My question is: Why did Lord Rama strike Vaali from behind? Why didn't he face him directly and challenge him to combat?

  • slideshare.net/harishkumar09/in-defence-of-sri-rama-ii may be the second part in this link will give u the answer... – The Hungry Dictator Jun 20 '14 at 12:08
  • Related and answers part of your question: What will happen if two people fight Vali together? – sv. Feb 25 '16 at 22:15
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    An excellent video by Shatavadhani Ganesh "Justify Vaali Vadhe" – Dharmendar Kumar 'DK' May 2 '16 at 22:53
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    Prearrangement made before Ramayan. Indhira will be vali. Lord Vishnu as Rama. Adhisesha as Lakshmana. Indhira is supposed to support Vishnu but on the contrary he deviated from Rama to Ravana. (Ravana and Vali became friends). So, like a drama director reminding the dialogues and action from screen behind when the stage artiste goes wrong, Rama, the director killed Vali from behind. As heard from Saint Krupananda Vaariyaar swamigal's oration. – user7426 Aug 17 '16 at 1:58
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We don't need to speculate; we can look at the justification Rama himself gave for his actions: (This is all taken from this translation of the Valmiki Ramayana by Desiraju Hanumanta Rao and KMK Murthy.)

  1. In response to Vali's claim that Rama has no jurisdiction to enforce laws there, since they're not in Ayodhya, Rama says that the Ikshkvaku dynasty has authority over the entire earth:

    "This earth with its mountains, woods, and forests, even along with the authority to condone or condemn the animals, birds, and humans on it belongs to Ikshvaku-s. He who is virtue-souled, truth-abiding, plain-speaking, and the knower of the import of probity, pleasures, and prosperity, and the one who is concerned in controlling or condoning his subjects, that Bharata is the ruler of earth."

    (Note that he is speaking of his own younger brother, who is ruling the kingdom in Rama's absence.)

  2. Rama says that in punishing evildoers, he is carrying out his brother Bharata's decree to enforce dharma (righteousness):

    Holding his virtuous decree desiring to keep up the continuum of righteousness, we and some other kings are wayfaring this earth in its entirety. While that Bharata, the kingly-tiger and a patron of virtue, is ruling the earth in its entirety, who is there to conduct himself in an unacceptable way to morality on it? Abiding in our own pre-eminent righteousness, and even abiding by the order of Bharata we punish him who deviated from the path of morality, according to custom.

  3. In response to Vali's claim that he did nothing wrong, Rama describes Vali's misconduct, engaging in actions quite inappropriate for a king:

    As for you, you brought virtue to a state of decadence, rendered yourself reprovable by your own decadent behaviour, for carnality alone has become your primary doctrine, and thus you have not abided by the conduct meetly to a king.... Realise this reason by which I have eliminated you… you misbehaved with your brother's wife, forsaking the perpetual tradition [Sanatana Dharma - the traditional name for Hinduism]. While the great-souled Sugreeva is still alive, you with your habit of sinful acts have lustily misbehaved with Sugreeva's wife Ruma, who should be counted as your daughter-in-law. Thereby, oh, vanara, this punishment is imposed on you, for your dissolute sinning in abusing your brother's wife, thereby for your transgression of tradition and virtue.

  4. Rama says that he is allowed to attack from behind because Kshatriyas are allowed to hunt mrigas (animals) by surprise, and vanaras are shaka-mrigas (jungle-animals):

    People will be capturing several animals, either covertly or overtly, with snares, springes and even with numerous contrivances. Meat eating people will undeniably kill animals, either they are speedily sprinting or standing steadily, fully dismayed or undismayed, vigilant or unvigilant, and even if they are facing away, in that there is no sacrilege. In this world even the kingly sages well-versed in virtue will go on hunting, and hunting is no face to face game, as such, oh, vanara, therefore I felled you in combat with my arrow because you are a tree-branch animal, whether you are not combating with me or combating against me.

    I should add that most people only know about Vali's harsh questioning of Rama's actions, but after Rama gives his justification, Vali realizes that Rama acted properly:

    Oh, best one among men, what all you have said is that way proper, undoubtedly. Indeed an ignoble cannot disprove a nobleman, Raghava, and with regards to the undesirable and improper words I have unwittingly spoken earlier, in that mater too it will be truly unapt of you to make me blameworthy, as I spoke them in anguish and ignorance. You alone are the knower of recourses and their real nature, namely probity, prosperity, pleasure seeking, and emancipation; dharma, artha, kaama, moksha ; and you take delight in the welfare of subjects, and your faultless intellect is clear in accomplishing ends by judging the causes and effects. Oh, Rama, the knower of probity, I am the one who digressed from the rightness and a forerunner among such transgressors, such as I am, give absolution even to me with words abounded with rightness.

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    Isn't there a big difference between justifying an action and the fundamental reason why the action was performed the way it was performed ? I am not sure if the question is whether Rama was justified in doing what he did, or WHY he had to do it that way. Unfortunately we do not seem to get that answer in the scripture. – Lotus Nov 23 '18 at 6:28
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As the story is narrated in Ananda ramayana, sara kanda another treatise of Ramayana, tells that Rama not only accords salvation to Vali but accords a boon to become a tribal in Krishna's incarnation, and kill Krishna at the end, as retaliation to the present killing.

yadi api tvam duraacaaro nihato asi raNe mayaa | tathaa api bhilla ruupeNa

dvaapara ante anghri mama | bhitvaa prabhaase baaNena puurva vaireNa vaanara

यदि अपि त्वम् दुराचारो निहतो असि रणे मया । तथा अपि भिल्ल रूपेण

द्वापर अन्ते अन्घ्रि मम । भित्वा प्रभासे बाणेन पूर्व वैरेण वानर

Vali had a boon, granted by Lord Shiva that whosoever fought with Vali would lose half of his strength and courage to Vali. This made him almost invincible in battle duels. Even Ravana fought with Vali and was defeated by him.

Sugreev was weak in front of Vali but he was virtuous and he was the victim. Lord Ram agreed to kill Vali for gaining Sugreev's trust and help in conquering Lanka.

If Lord Ram would have faced Vali face to face, he would lose half of his strength to Vali and Vali could have won. Hence, at the advice of Lord Ram, Sugreev fought with Vali while Ram struck Vali from behind, even though attacking a person engaged in a duel from behind was considered morally wrong.

Later, when Vali was taking his last breaths, he asked Ram, also known as मर्यदापुरुशोत्तम् Maryadapurushottam (the perfect man, one who upholds virtues) about his immoral and unethical act. For this Ram consoles him saying that this paapa of his will haunt him in his next incarnation as Krsna and he will die by the hand of Vali's next incarnation as a Nishad (Hunter).

Even Gods are subjected to Karma.

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    It's not even true that avatarams of Vishnu are subject to karma. When Ghandari sees that her sons are dead, she tries to put a curse on Krishna that he and his Vrishni clam will all die. Krishna responds "There is none in the world, save myself, that is capable of exterminating the Vrishnis." But then he graciously accepts Gandhari's curse. So ultimately he only undergoes such hardship because he chooses it, not because he is inherently subject to karma like the rest of us might be. – Keshav Srinivasan Jun 20 '14 at 15:17
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    And Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita that he is not subject to the duties that ordinary people are required to do: vedabase.com/en/bg/3/22 To the extent that Rama acted as the paragon of dharma, this was done by Vishnu to set an example for humans to follow, not because the bonds of karma actually attached to him (although Rama thought he was an ordinary man bound by the laws of dharma). – Keshav Srinivasan Jun 20 '14 at 15:24
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    Quick question - are you quoting from some source in your answer? (Doesn't look like it.) If not, it would be better to remove the quote formatting. – senshin Jun 20 '14 at 22:06
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    @senshin, Good Lord! How am I suppose to cite sources to fables my Grandmother told me as child? Anyway fortunately I got one for this case, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vali_%28Ramayana%29#After_Vali.27s_death – Vineet Menon Jun 21 '14 at 4:00
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    @VineetMenon I'm not telling you to cite a source. I'm saying that if what you have posted is not a quotation from another source, you should remove the quote formatting. – senshin Jun 21 '14 at 4:00
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Actually Lord Rama didn't exactly strike Vali from behind, but from a far distant place. From behind He would not have been able to target Vali's chest.

The reason Rama didn't face him and challenge him to combat was because vali had obtained a special boon from Brahma which enabled him to take away half the strength of the opponent he faced:

आहूय वालिनं ब्रह्मा ददौ वरं अनुत्तमम् । प्रतीपवर्तिनोभूयात् अर्ध बलं अरिन्दम ॥ [See the side note here] Meaning
Inviting Vali, Brahma gave him an excellent boon. On confrontation with an opponent Vali will conquer half of his strength.

If Rama faced Vali directly then He would have lost half His strength respecting Brahma's boon and could have been killed by Vali:

दृश्यमानः तु युध्येथा मया युधि नृपात्मज | अद्य वैवस्वतम् देवम् पश्येः त्वम् निहतो मया || [VR - 4.17.47]

Meaning
Had you been in combat with me en face oh, prince, you would have been killed by me and by now you would have seen the death-god Yama.

This is the reason He didn't confront Vali directly. From battle point of view it was unjust for Rama to do so as a Khsyatriya, but as wounded Vali accepted himself to be a fruit, leaf, eating animal:

फल मूल अशनम् नित्यम् वानरम् वन गोचरम् | माम् इह अप्रतियुध्यन्तम् अन्येन च समागतम् || [VR - 4.17.25]

Meaning
I am a vanara subsisting on fruits and tubers and always moving in forests alone; such as I am, what made you to torture me when I was not combating with you en face, furthermore, when I was involved with another?

Rama justified His actions by stating that sagely kings even go for hunting and hunting is not always a face to face game:

यान्ति राजर्षयः च अत्र मृगयाम् धर्म कोविदाः |
तस्मात् त्वम् निहतो युद्धे मया बाणेन वानर |
अयुध्यन् प्रतियुध्यन् वा यस्मात् शाखा मृगो हि असि || [VR - 4.18.40]

Meaning
In this world even the kingly sages well-versed in virtue will go on hunting, and hunting is no face to face game, as such, oh, vanara, therefore I felled you in combat with my arrow because you are a tree-branch animal, whether you are not combating with me or combating against me.

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    आहूय वालिनं ब्रह्मा...(Brahma gave him an excellent boon) - is this from Valimiki Ramayana itself or just commentary on valmikiramayan.net? I'm confused. – sv. Oct 19 '15 at 1:40
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In Kamba Ramayana, it is Lakshman who answers this question. Actually this question was posed by Vaali as he was lying on the ground after he was felled by Raamas arrow. Raama does not answer Vaali. Instead Lakshman answers. As per Lakshman, Raama had agreed to protect and support Sugrivan. If Raama had come face to face with Vaali, then Vaali would have prostrated before Raama as he would have realized that Raama was an avatar of Vishnu. Then it would have been difficult for Raama to kill Vaali and not keep his promise to Sugrivan. Hence, Raama hid behind a tree and killed Vaali. Refer Dr. Va Shubha Manickams lecture on Kamba Ramayanam

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    Welcome to Hinduism.SE! Answers on this site should be backed up with sources. So can you please give a specific citation of what lecture you're talking about, and preferably quote from the lecture? Is it a book, or an audio or video lecture? – Keshav Srinivasan Jun 10 '15 at 16:45
  • kamban seems to have outdone valmiki in being revolting. – S K Dec 10 '17 at 14:20
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That Rama killed Vaali in an unfair manner cannot be disputed for reasons like:

  • Vaali didn't have personal enmity with Rama.
  • Rules of human society cannot be applied to the animal kingdom (my personal belief is that those called as monkeys were primitive humans who resembled apes. I don't accept that humans talked with monkeys, bears etc. The story of Ramayana has to be understood metaphorically and not literally).
  • Two persons (Rama and Sugreeva) fighting a single one (Vaali) is unethical by the code of conduct that existed during that time.
  • Killing someone from behind is also wrong according to that time.

There may be many other valid accusations. There can be many equally valid justifications but one explanation stands out and it is not based on the virtue of Rama but of Seetha Rama.

While Rama can be regarded as the epitome of manly strength, Seetha was an embodiment of pure love. It is not as if Rama wasn't capable of love; it's just that some of the love had to be traded-off for strength. So, when Ravana abducted the compassionate Seetha, Rama became incomplete and violent without her gentle presence nearby to calm His anger and forgive the offenders. How can there be justice or mercy in a world where the goddess of compassion, Seetha Herself, has been abducted? Without Seetha, Rama was not His usual self and He lost His patience. He became Aniruddha (the Unstoppable One) and everyone standing on His way to reclaim His beloved was run over. It is not 100% possible to support a comment in a text like Ramayana because it has to be felt from the heart than read from the brain. Also, since this text comes as a tradition from a very ancient period, there may not be an absolute proof other than what has been conveyed through tradition to those who have been fortunate enough to be at a listening distance.

From Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kanda (3.66). Note especially 3.66.18 The importance of having a compassionate woman like Seetha not only applies to Rama but also to all husbands. Power alone cannot help. Only a power that is accompanied by love can be constructive and help save the world.

1 & 2. Lakshmana, son of Sumitra, consoling the mighty miserable Rama, who was afflicted with sorrow, and was weeping helplessly like an orphan, drowned in great delusion, devoid of consciousness, pressed his feet and addressed him:
3. O Rama, king Dasaratha begot you by doing a great penance and performing great deeds, just as gods begot the nectar.
4. King Dasaratha, impelled by your virtues, and (unable to bear the) separation from you attained godhood as heard from Bharata.
5. O Rama, if you cannot bear this sorrow that has befallen you, how can weak and ordinary persons endure (such suffering)?
6. O best of men, if you grieve and burn the world with your brilliance, wherefrom will the (ordinary) afflicted people get relief?
7. It is the go of the world. Yayati, son of Nahusa, shared heaven with Indra but because of his curse (for his bad conduct) suffered misfortune.
8. To sage Vasistha, our father's priest, were born a hundred sons in a day.But all of them were killed in one day the same way.
9. You (rigidly) adhere to truth.(Like you) the mother earth who is adored by all the worlds, is unshakeable. Yet she is seen to be shaking at times.
10. The powerful Sun and Moon, righteous entities, who are the two eyes of these worlds and on whom everything rests firmly, also suffer eclipses sometimes.
11. O best among men, fate spares none. Great beings, every creature, even the gods cannot escape fate.
12. I heard that Indra and other deities are also governed by the principle of justice. Therefore, you should not bewail, O tiger among men.
13. Even if Vaidehi (another name of Seetha) is killed or abducted, you should not grieve like ordinary men, O sinless hero.
14. O Rama, you always see the truth. So, in the face of great difficulties men like you, whose vision is not blurred, should not lose heart.
15. O best among men, judge the facts rightly with your intellect. The wise apply their minds and know what is right and what is wrong.
16. Good results are not expected from the actions of persons who cannot distinguish between their virtues and vices, from those who are unstable in their deeds.
17. O Rama, you yourself in the past have instructed me many times that way. Who can be your adviser in this matter ? You are indeed like Brihaspati (the Guru of Gods).
18. Even gods cannot fathom your intellect. I am only trying to rouse your wisdom your sorrow has sent to sleep.
19. O bull among the Ikshvakus, weigh your divine and human prowess before you try to kill your enemies.
20. O best among men, where is the good in the destruction of all? Know your sinful enemy before you uproot him.

From Valmiki Ramayana, Yuddha Kandam (6.113) The mercy of Seetha.

Thereafter, having joined his hands together in salutation, standing in front of Seetha in humility and free from flurry, Hanuman again spoke to Seetha (as follows):
"If you permit me, I wish to kill all of these notorious female-demons, by whom you have been frightened earlier.
"These cruel female-demons of terrific form and behavior, with still more cruel eyes, having ugly faces, were heard by me here speaking again and again harsh words to you, who are so devoted to your husband, at Ravana’s command, when you were suffering hardships in the Ashoka grove, O divine lady!
"I wish to kill with various kinds of strokes, these cruel, extremely rough and deformed female-demons, with distorted features and terrific hairs and eyes, talking together roughly. (Pray) grant this boon to me.
"I wish to kill the female-demons, who have spoken harsh words to you and wronged you, striking them down with my fists, hand-blows, long arms, blows of my shanks and knees, by causing pain to their teeth, biting off their ears and nose and pulling out their hair, making them severely dry-mouthed, tearing them off, leaping over them, encountering them and throwing down their bodies, with their burst cheeks, necks, shoulders and ribs.
"O illustrious lady! Striking them with several blows in this way, I would destroy the female-demons of terrible form, by whom you have been threatened in the past."
Reflecting as pondering for a while, when spoken thus by Hanuman, the compassionate Seetha, who was kind to the miserable, spoke to Hanuman as follows:
"O the foremost of monkeys! Who will be angry with servant-maids, who are dependent on their king’s command and work in obedience to the orders of others?
"All this is reaped by me, as a consequence of my bad fortune or an account of a misdeed committed by me in the past. The fruit of one’s own making is indeed experienced (in one’s life).
"O the great-armed Hanuman! Do not speak like this. This is indeed a great divine strategy. It was ordained that this type of situation is to be obtained by me, due to the application of fate. Feeble as I am in these matters, I am forgiving the servant-maids of Ravana here.
"O Hanuman! As commanded by Ravana they threatened me. As he is dead now, they will not do the threatening.
"O Hanuman! There is an old maxim possessed of merit, actually uttered by a bear in the presence of a tiger. Hear it from me:
"'A superior being does not render evil for evil, this is a maxim one should observe; the ornament of virtuous persons is their conduct.'
"One should never harm the wicked or the good or even criminals meriting death.
"A noble soul will ever exercise compassion even towards those who enjoy injuring others or those of cruel deeds when they are actually committing them. Who is without fault?"
Hearing the words of Seetha, Hanuman who was skilled in speech, then replied to the faultless Seetha, Rama’s consort (as follows):
"O divine lady! You are the apt wife of Rama, full of virtue. Give me a message in return. I will go to the place where Rama is."

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