I have been stuck at the Vali sarga for over a week now because there was something here that was bugging me the cause of whom I now seem to have recognised.

Rama justifies the reason of killing Vali as the sexual acts he committed against Ruma:

तत् एतत् कारणम् पश्य यत् अर्थम् त्वम् मया हतः | भ्रातुर् वर्तसि भार्यायाम् त्यक्त्वा धर्मम् सनातनम् || ४-१८-१८

Realise this reason by which I have eliminated you... you misbehaved with your brother's wife, forsaking the perpetual tradition. [4-18-18]

He further justifies his act of attacking while hiding as sinless by indicating to Vali that he’s just an animal and animals can be hunted in any manner:

यान्ति राजर्षयः च अत्र मृगयाम् धर्म कोविदाः | तस्मात् त्वम् निहतो युद्धे मया बाणेन वानर | अयुध्यन् प्रतियुध्यन् वा यस्मात् शाखा मृगो हि असि || ४-१८-४०

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. [4-18-40]

Here’s my qualm. If Rama considers Vali to be just an ape, then why is Vali subjected to the morals of humans?

  • Vali has to be fine with either options, put forth by Lord Rama, becos either of the two options holds true/ there arent other cases apart from those (two).If Vali counters Lord Ram, that he is a an animal hence can act by impulse unbound by human rules (dharma), then the second option holds true.It should be noticed that Lord Rama did postion Vali in the strata of human , thus presented the first option as a potential choice.
    – Athrey
    Sep 16 at 18:14
  • In 4.18.46 Vali offered obeisance with folded palms to Rama, saying, 'O best among men whatever you have spoken is undoubtedly true. There is no contradiction, as the accused admittd/confessed his guilt
    – Athrey
    Sep 16 at 18:15
  • Here it is not about what Rama considers vali to be , rather it is what Vali considers himself to be..
    – Athrey
    Sep 16 at 18:17
  • @Athrey no what you’re saying is incorrect. If Vali puts forth the argument that he’s an animal then Rama’s justification to kill him vanishes away as he’s not going to eat Vali’s meat. And if Rama considers Vali to be human then his way of killing Vali is wrong. It is one or the other. It doesn’t matter if Vali doesn’t see the contradiction. Sep 17 at 2:13
  • And again, can the downvoter leave a feedback as to how I can improve my question? Sep 17 at 2:14

1 Answer 1


These are two different issues that Sri Rama is addressing.

Using the translation of Sri Bibek Debroy -

Abandoning eternal dharma, you had intercourse with your brother’s wife. The great-souled Sugriva is still alive. Ruma is like your daughter-in-law. Falling prey to desire, you have committed a wicked act by having intercourse with her. O ape! You followed kama and transgressed dharma. You have touched your brother’s wife and I have accordingly punished you.

Rama killed VAli because of VAli's behavior towards the wife of Sugriva. Rama is implying that rules of dharma pertaining to not having intercourse with Sugriva's wife when Sugriva is alive, are also applicable to apes.

Later, Rama says -

We are subject to our own norms and have thought of dharma when killing you. Hiding themselves, men are seen to capture a large number of animals with snares, nooses and various other hidden means. This is irrespective of whether they are running away, terrified, roaming around without fear, distracted, undistracted or retreating. Men who desire flesh will certainly kill them and there is no sin in this. Therefore, royal sages who know about dharma engage in hunting. O ape!

Accordingly, using an arrow, I have slain you in an encounter. Whether you are fighting or you are not fighting, you are no more than an ape.

Rama killed VAli indirectly because VAli is just an ape and rules of combat do not apply to animals like apes (when humans kill them).

So, in summary -

  1. Rules of not engaging in adhArmic kAma apply to apes like VAli.

  2. Rules of combat do not apply for humans killing animals (including apes like VAli).

Edits responding to comments

Among vAnara-s, only VAli was treated as sub-human by Sri Rama. This is because of the adharma of VAli.

Sri Rama had great respect and concern for vAnara-s. At the end of the war with Ravana, Sri Rama requests Indra to bring back all the dead vAnara-s to life.

...... the great Indra, the chastiser of Paka, spoke in an extremely happy voice to Raghava, who was standing there, his hands joined in salutation. ‘O Rama! O scorcher of enemies! Your seeing us should not be fruitless. I am full of affection for you. Tell me what you desire.’ Kakutstha was addressed in this way. With his brother, Lakshmana, and his wife, Sita, he joined his hands in salutation and said, ‘O lord of all the gods! O supreme among eloquent ones! If you are full of affection for me, I will tell you. Please act accordingly and make my words come true. There are valiant ones who have gone to Yama’s abode on my account. Let all those apes regain their lives and stand up. Devoted to me and seeking to ensure my pleasure, they did not think about death. Through your favours, let them be united again. This is the boon I ask for. Let them be free of their pains. Let them be free of their wounds. Let them be full of strength and manliness. O one who grants honours! I desire to see the golangulas and the Indras among the bears. Wherever the apes are, let there be sparkling rivers and the best of roots and fruits, irrespective of the season.’

  • Thank you for the answer. What I am stuck with is that the implication of dharma of humans being applied on vanaras by Rama. If the vanaras are meant to follow all the dharma of humans, why then are they sub-human? Sep 17 at 15:28
  • @vishwamitras100aunts I cannot answer your question, but Sri Rama never treated dhArmic vAnaras as sub-humans. Only adhArmic vAnara like vAli is treated like that. Sri Rama did not even challenge vAli directly because doing that meant according some respect to vAli. On the other hand, vAnara-s like Sri Hanuman, Angada, Sugriva are treated with great respect by Sri Rama.
    – user29525
    Sep 17 at 18:26
  • Sugriva broke his pledge to Vali of standing by the hole by leaving before Vali returned. To me that seems adharma by human standards, yet Rama let that one slide which made me conclude (maybe incorrectly) that Vanaras have a different code of conduct. Sep 17 at 18:40
  • @vishwamitras100aunts There was a genuine misunderstanding on the part of Sugriva, who thought that VAli was killed in the cave.
    – user29525
    Sep 17 at 18:47
  • Be that as it may, he still broke the pledge. Sep 17 at 18:50

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