In the Sundarakanda of the Ramcharitmanas it is said:

जलनिधि रघुपति दूत बिचारी। तैं मैनाक होहि श्रम हारी॥५॥
Knowing him to be a messenger of Rama, the Sea (Sea God) told Mainaka to become a reliever of Hanuman’s fatigue.

In this context, the Ramayana provides an explanation about the Sea God’s reverence and indebtedness to the Ikshvaku dynasty:

To this Hanuman, who is a follower of the Ikshvaku dynasty, help should be done by me now. Descendants of Ikshvaku are repectable to me. 5.1.96

The ocean was developed by people born in Sri Rama's dynasty. That such ocean is worshipping in lieu of Sri Rama, you who is desirous of Sri Rama's welfare. 5.1.113

The sea god thus attempted at rendering help to the messenger (though Hanumanji himself is god) of Shri Rama but yet on being requested for 3 days, he didn’t yield to Shri Rama’s request to provide a solution to let the army pass, until threatened. (Yuddha Kanda, Setu building time)

What was the reason that the Sea God helped the messenger but avoided helping Shri Rama himself, the very person (of the dynasty) to whom the Sea God was indebted?

Note: Lakshmana also tells Shri Rama that Devatas can’t be trusted, but that may not be counted as an acceptable explanation here.

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    Interesting observation. – Surya Mar 14 at 10:56

Lord Varuna, the deity of the Oceans, is a deity who seems to follows the laws and rules very strictly. In the Vedas, he is known as a mighty King and Upholder of Rta, or the worldly order. Refer this page for a detailed description of Varuna as the Upholder of Rta.

In brief, I quote the following:

For instance, it is said;” By the law of Varuna heaven and earth are held apart; the planets rotate in their fixed orbits (ṛtena ṛtam apihitaṃ dhruvaṃ vāṃ sūryasya yatra vimucanty aśvān– RV 5.62.1). ....

Rta causes the rivers to flow into the ocean without over-filling it. Varuna the lord of Rta is the binder. He binds together the deep- space, the space between the earth and yonder, the winds, the clouds and the rays of light.”

1. Primary Reason:

This quality of Varuna as the upholder of Worldly order is reflected in his dialogue to Rama.

O, beloved Rama! Earth, wind ether, water and light remain fixed in their own nature, resorting to their eternal path. Therefore, I am fathomless and my nature is that it is impossible of being swum across. It becomes unnatural if I am shallow. I am telling you the following device to cross me.
O, prince! Neither from desire nor ambition nor fear nor from affection, I am able to solidify my waters inhabited by alligators. "O, Rama! I shall make it possible to see that you are able to cross over. I will arrange a place for the monkeys to cross me and bear with it. As far as the army crosses me, the crocodiles will not be aggressive to them. VR.6.25-28

Above, Varuna means that the sea is by nature deep and difficult to cross, so it would be against the laws of nature (Rta) (and interfering with ordinary worldly affairs) to allow an entire army to easily swim across to Lanka without being affected by the sea waves or aquatic creatures.

2. Secondary Motive

Varuna also has a secondary motive in kindling Rama's anger, which he reveals to Rama subsequently. When Rama, who has notched the Brahmastra onto his bow, asks Varuna for a suitable target for the weapon (since now Varuna's ocean domain has been spared from Rama's anger), Varuna replies,

Towards my northern side, there is a holy place. It is well known as Drumatulya, in the same way as you are well known to this world. Numerous robbers of fearful aspect and deeds, having the sinful Abhiras as their chief, drink my waters there. I am not able to bear that touch of those wicked people, the evil doers, O, Rama! Let this excellent arrow with out vain be released over them there. [VR.6.31-33]

(Slightly selfish of Varuna I guess, kindling another's anger to achieve his tasks, but then again as upholder of Rta one supposes he is forbidden from destroying a sect of population for his benefit.)

One may argue that had Varuna appeared to Rama immediately, Rama would not have agreed for a barter of way-over-the-sea for Brahmastra-destruction. Hence, only by making him wait for three days, the Ocean Lord's purpose would have been achieved.

Conclusion: difference between the situation with Hanuman and Rama

This is opposed to his helping hand in Hanuman's task, since asking for Mainaka mountain to rise up and provide a resting spot for Hanuman wasn't interfering with any worldly affairs, so Varuna was just offering the best help he could without affecting the rest of his natural domain.

As a side note, this strict, law abiding nature of Varuna is seen in Krsna's life as well, during two incidents, the first being the abduction of Nanda, described in Bhagavatam 10.28, where even though he knows Nanda wasn't committing a crime, he allowed his servant to drag him to his abode citing rules of Brahma Muhurta and Asuri Muhurta. Of course one may argue that he wanted a darshan of Lord Krsna.

The second incident is after Banasura's battle with Krsna, when Krsna proceeds to the abode of Varuna to secure one of Banasura's cows as per Satyabhama's request, narrated in the Harivamsa, Vishnu Parva, Chapter 127. Here too, instead of directly approaching Krsna as the Lord, Varuna first deals with him as a cattle thief and battles with Krsna and his army. It is subsequently that he decides to call it a truce and requests Krsna to stop fighting, citing that he doesn't wish to break his promise of protecting Banasura's cows. Once again, upholding laws.

  • Of course, one wonders what was the Upholder of Rta doing when a certain Pushpaka Vimana flew across from Panchavati to Lanka, but that would just be confirming to Valmiki's descriptions of the ocean being scared of the Ramayana's main antagonist. – Surya Mar 14 at 19:20
  • Woah woah!! . Wait i didn’t understand the first point of upholding Rta - the swim across thing could you please explain. Will read properly and do the needful tomorrow – Archit Mar 14 at 19:36
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    have edited it a little bit formatting abs including your explanation from the comments so that people see and appreciate this answer. If you don’t like it you can revert it (it’s after all your own answer with your own efforts), but the primary motive is for everyone to appreciate your answer. – Archit Mar 15 at 5:24
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    @Archit Thanks :-). The edits make the answer neat to read, so thanks for that as well! – Surya Mar 15 at 5:40
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    No no no all the thanks goes to you. I’ve read the answer some 5 times already – Archit Mar 15 at 6:42

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