Why does the Śūrpaṇakhā incident in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 9.10 differ from the version found in Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa?

Canto 9: Liberation


The Pastimes of the Supreme Lord, Rāmacandra


Text 4: To keep the promise of His father intact, Lord Rāmacandra immediately gave up the position of king and, accompanied by His wife, mother Sītā, wandered from one forest to another on His lotus feet, which were so delicate that they were unable to bear even the touch of Sītā’s palms. The Lord was also accompanied by Hanumān [or by another monkey, Sugrīva], king of the monkeys, and by His own younger brother Lord Lakṣmaṇa, both of whom gave Him relief from the fatigue of wandering in the forest. Having cut off the nose and ears of Śūrpaṇakhā, thus disfiguring her, the Lord was separated from mother Sītā. He therefore became angry, moving His eyebrows and thus frightening the ocean, who then allowed the Lord to construct a bridge to cross the ocean. Subsequently, the Lord entered the kingdom of Rāvaṇa to kill him, like a fire devouring a forest. May that Supreme Lord, Rāmacandra, give us all protection.


Text 9: While wandering in the forest, where He accepted a life of hardship, carrying His invincible bow and arrows in His hand, Lord Rāmacandra deformed Rāvaṇa’s sister, who was polluted with lusty desires, by cutting off her nose and ears. He also killed her fourteen thousand Rākṣasa friends, headed by Khara, Triśira and Dūṣaṇa.

Is this a translation issue? If not, how did this error creep into SB?

  • 2
    This is not an error. There are two versions of this story.
    – Wikash_
    Commented May 14, 2019 at 19:16
  • 2
    Is it possible that physically it was Lakshman who disfigured Śūrpaṇakhā, but as Ram was supposed to be in charge and senior at that moment, he was blamed for doing it? Similar to the modern days where Seniors have to answer for their Junior's mistakes
    – V.Aggarwal
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 4:39
  • Neither Rāma nor Lakṣmaṇa is being blamed for the act. The question is simply about why the two texts differ. @V.Aggarwal Commented May 15, 2019 at 16:41

1 Answer 1

  1. The SB version of Rama's story is in very short form:

    O King Parīkṣit, the transcendental activities of Lord Rāmacandra have been described by great saintly persons who have seen the truth. Because you have heard again and again about Lord Rāmacandra, the husband of mother Sītā, I shall describe these activities only in brief. Please listen. ~ ŚB 9.10.3

  2. The leader is responsible for the acts, for example ŚB 9.10.10 says that Lord Śiva killed Dakṣa but actually Dakṣa was killed by Veerbhadra. Similarly, the act of Lakṣmaṇa is described as of Rama's.

The other translators have interpreted this as an act of Lakṣmaṇa:

  1. May that Lord of the Kosala (country) protect us— the Lord who gave up his kingdom for honouring the pledge given by his father, and wandered from forest to forest on his lotus-feet that were too tender to bear the touch of the palms of his beloved Sita (who pressed and massaged them to relieve their fatigue), and whose fatigue from journey was soothed by the leader of the monkeys (Hanuman or Sugriva)- and his younger brother Laksmana; the Lord who constructed a bridge at the request of the deity presiding over the ocean, which was terrified at the display of his frowning eyebrows, excited by his wrath at the separation from his beloved, caused (by Ravana who was incited to do so) by disfiguring of Śūrpaṇakhā (by Laksmana’s mutilating her nose and ears), and thus who was like a conflagration to the forest (in the form) of the wicked (demons). ~MOTILAL BANARSIDASS's THE BHAGAVATA-PURANA PART III: Skandha 9: Chapter 10

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