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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. From the way Rama killed Vali it is clear that he considers Vali to be just an ape, then why is Vali subjected to the morals of humans?

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  • 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
    Commented Sep 16, 2023 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
    Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 18:15
  • Here it is not about what Rama considers vali to be , rather it is what Vali considers himself to be..
    – Athrey
    Commented Sep 16, 2023 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. Commented Sep 17, 2023 at 2:13
  • And again, can the downvoter leave a feedback as to how I can improve my question? Commented Sep 17, 2023 at 2:14

3 Answers 3

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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.’

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  • 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? Commented Sep 17, 2023 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
    Commented Sep 17, 2023 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. Commented Sep 17, 2023 at 18:40
  • @vishwamitras100aunts There was a genuine misunderstanding on the part of Sugriva, who thought that VAli was killed in the cave.
    – user29525
    Commented Sep 17, 2023 at 18:47
  • Be that as it may, he still broke the pledge. Commented Sep 17, 2023 at 18:50
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Rama is not implying that human's morals, i.e he is not applying human dharma to vanaras. It was Sugreeva who did.

In sargas 8 & 10 of Kishkinda Kanda (later too), Sugreeva tells Rama multiple times that Vali stole his wife; and in sarga 10 tells Rama that he is saddened by it, implying that such an event is considered a sad event in their society. i.e. Sugreeva clearly is informing Rama that this seemingly human dharmic construct also applies to vanaras. He prepared Rama well on what to say to Vali if necessary:)

Sarga 8 -

अहम् विनिकृतो भ्रात्रा चरामि एष भयार्दितः | ऋष्यमूकम् गिरि वरम् हृत भार्यः सुदुःखितः || ४-८-१७

"My brother calumniated me and stole my wife, with his fear and my anguish haunting me I am moving about this best mountain Rishyamuka. [4-8-17]

हृता भार्या च मे तेन प्राणेभ्यो अपि गरीयसी | सुहृदः च मदीया ये संयता बन्धनेषु ते || ४-८-३३

"My wife who is loftier than my lives is stolen by him, and those that are my sympathisers they are also captivated and imprisoned by him. [4-8-33]

Sarga 10 -

तेन अहम् अपविद्धः च हृत दारः च राघव | तत् भयात् च महीम् सर्वान् क्रान्तवान् स वन अर्णवाम् || ४-१०-२७

"Thus he threw me away and even stole my wife, oh, Rama, and owing to his fear alone I roamed all over the earth with its forests and oceans. [4-10-27]

ऋश्यमूकम् गिरि वरम् भार्या हरण दुःखितः | प्रविष्टो अस्मि दुराधर्षम् वालिनः कारणान्तरे || ४-१०-२८

"I who am saddened by stealing of my wife have entered this safest mountain Rishyamuka, which is impenetrable for Vali by another reason. [4-10-28]

Such repeated complaints of Sugreeva pretty much all but openly-declared that Vali taking Sugreeva's wife for himself was clearly a no no in their society. Rama simply remembered it and thus used that connotation with Vali later.

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  • But the fact that Rama killed Vali as if in a hunt clearly implies Rama considered Vali to be an animal. If I understand you correctly he only said the bit about Ruma because of what Sugriva told and not necessarily what he thought? Commented Sep 24, 2023 at 2:20
  • You seem to believe that Rama was being subjective about Vali's biological classification. By your logic, if Rama's main reason to kill Vali was that he was an animal, then he first would have also killed off Hanuman, Sugreeva & other such animals there. See the issue with your presumption? Rama was not being subjective, Vali (& Sugreeva, Hanuman, Jambavan et al) was an animal, in objective reality, which has nothing to do with Rama's opinion. So where is the issue of Rama considering an animal, as an animal? Commented Sep 24, 2023 at 16:41
  • You should be worried if he called an animal a human, or a human an animal, which he didn't. Also, in Kishkinda Kanda, before Hanuman first ventures out to meet Rama & Lakshmana, when Sugreeva gets anxious and does things that anxious monkeys do, Hanuman also rebukes Sugreeva's behavior saying that Sugreeva's falling into his animal nature, and asks Sugreeva to stop it! i.e. Vanaras clearly held that being animalistic in behavior is a bad thing. Which notion Sugreeva & Hanuman influenced Rama with. Thus Rama was very careful in applying whatever Vanara notions he saw, to a fellow Vanara, Vali. Commented Sep 24, 2023 at 16:41
  • No, my reasoning isn’t about why Rama killed Vali (as an animal). It is from the how I say that that’s how he considered Vali. But I get what you are saying. You are saying that Rama understood the code of conduct among Vanaras from what he was told by Sugriva (and Hanumantha) who are, still technically “animals” Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 3:33
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https://www.valmikiramayan.net/utf8/kish/sarga18/kishkindharoman18.htm#Verse40

As noted by the translator on valmikiramayan.net, the reasoning offered by Rama ('you are an animal so I can kill you however I want') doesn't make a lot of sense. He writes:

'Whether you face this way or that you are an animal, as you alone said, besides being an enemy of my friend...' For this Griffith says - I cannot understand how Valmiki could put such an excuse as this into Rama's mouth. Rama with all solemn ceremony, has made a league of alliance with Vali's younger brother whom he regards as a dear friend and almost as an equal, and now he winds up his reasons for killing Vali by coolly saying: 'Besides you are only a monkey, you know, after all, and as such I have every right to kill you how, when, and where I like.'

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