The VirAdha Episode

Robert Goldman rpg at CALMAIL.BERKELEY.EDU
Mon Nov 21 17:10:16 UTC 2011

Dear Colleagues:

A few thoughts on the  VirAdha episode:

Adheesh is no doubt correct to read the VirAdha episode as a dramatic  
foreshadowing of the central narrative and emotional moment of the  
poem i.e.  SItA's fateful abduction at the hands of RAvaṇa. Both epic  
poets like to reinforce or overdetermine such critical thematic  
elements as we can see also in the multiple assaults on DraupadI in  
the MBh at the hands of KIcaka and Jayadratha which echo, as it were  
her abuse at the hands of Duryodhana and DuHZAsana.

But the episode appears to serve some other interesting functions as  
well. For one thing it marks the exiled trio's passage from the  
romantic, sylvan setting of CitrakUTa into the deeper, more fearsome  
forests of the Daṇḍaka peopled only by monstrous, flesh-easting  
rākSasas and their prey, the pious AZram-dwelling sages. Then, too it  
provides the poet with another opportunity like the one afforded by  
the AhalyA episode in the BAlakANDa to demonstrate that his hero,  
although to all appearances a man, possesses the power to grant  
salvation through the release from curses incurred as a result of  
wrongful acts.

In addition, as I pointed out in an earlier article, ("RAmaH  
SahalakSmaNaH" Journal of Indian Philosophy 8. 1980 pp, 149-189,  
footnote 47) it affords the poet with yet another occasion to  
highlight the complementary emotional responses of RAma and LakSmaNa.   
Earlier, when the order of banishment is given, the latter is filled  
with rage and prepares to contest it violently; but Rāma calms him and  
graciously accepts his exile and loss of the throne. Later, when RAma  
is provoked to fearsome rage by the abduction of SItA, it is LakSmaNa  
who is the voice of calmness and constructive action,  Here,  
interestingly, RAma's first reaction to VirAdha's assault is  
debilitating grief and it is necessary for LakSmaNa to exhort him and  
stir him from his despair and complaining to action.

As far as the comparison with Antaka, it is likely that one is reading  
too much into it. This is a standard and even cliched simile in the  
epic for a fearsome warrior or adversary. VAlmIki uses it dozens of  
times, especially of course in the YuddhakANDa where a wide range of  
figures on both sides of the war are likened to Anataka, Yama, and/or  

Finally, I think we should not over interpret the numbers used in the  
passage. The poem is filled with numbers: numbers of years, numbers of  
arrows, numbers of heads, numbers of rAkSasas, numbers of vAnaras  
ranging from the low integers to vast astronomical numbers. If we are  
to read each of these numbers as coded references to metaphysical or  
cosmological concepts there would never be an end of it. Perhaps  
sometimes numbers are just that, numbers.
Dr. R. P.  Goldman
Professor of Sanskrit
Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies
MC # 2540
The University of California at Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720-2540
Tel: 510-642-4089
Fax: 510-642-2409

On Nov 21, 2011, at 4:42 AM, Adheesh Sathaye wrote:

> Dear Artur et al,
> Perhaps the medieval commentators may prove helpful for the reading  
> of VR 3.2.9. All three published in the Gujarati Printing Press  
> edition (reprinted by Parimal, and quite nicely available on  
>!) seem to take the sandhi as "kAle."  govindarAja and  
> zivasahAya (respectively) gloss "kAle" as "saMhAra-samaye" and  
> "saMhAra-kAle" (both meaning "at the time of dissolution"). However,  
> zivasahAya further glosses "antakaH" as "kAlaH" ("Time/Death").  
> nAgezabhaTTA is probably most helpful for your case. He suggests  
> "kAle yugAntakAle" "'In Time' meaning 'At the end of an Age'". He  
> further offers "vRddhaH 'antakaH" as a gloss -- "antaka [Death/ 
> Destroyer/Ender] has grown."
> As for the number of animals, it is curious that the commentators  
> don't go into this question, since it is precisely the kind of thing  
> that they often argue about. Perhaps some of the other commentaries  
> do get into it.
> But if I might hazard speculation: The Viradha episode might also be  
> taken as a prismatic/bizarre foreshadowing of Rama's later encounter  
> with Ravana. Here is a demon who has been granted a boon of  
> invulnerability, who attempts to abduct Sita, and so on.  So I  
> wonder if the numbers of animal victims here might be a twist on the  
> various deities captured by Ravana? (3=trimurti; 4=lokapalas;  
> 2=Asvins; 10=?). Just a thought!
> I wonder if the Ramayana on the whole might be less worried about  
> apocalypse than the Mahabharata--rather, superheroes and super- 
> villains occupy Valmiki's literary gaze. And the latter especially  
> become grotesque/satirical: see Robert Goldman's discussion in his  
> essay "Ravana's Kitchen," for example (appears in _Questioning  
> Ramayanas_ ed. Paula Richman).
> For more on the subject matter you're raising, you may also already  
> know of Goldman's comparison of the two epics' discursive  
> construction of "Ages" in an essay entitled "The Spirit of the Age"  
> in the RK Sharma Festschrift (Delhi: Pratibha Prakashan, 2006). Hope  
> this might be helpful!
> All best wishes,
> Adheesh
> ----
> Adheesh Sathaye
> Department of Asian Studies
> University of British Columbia
> On Nov 20, 2011, at 3:57 PM, Artur Karp wrote:
>> Dear Louis,
>>> As for taking antaka to mean "the end of the world," there is no  
>>> context for such a reading here.
>> Right. Agreed. But - note please - there is no reading of the sort  
>> you
>> quote in my first message.
>> What I suggested is: "the one who ends [the world]", antaka. Maybe
>> "Finisher" or "Destroyer" would have been more appropriate.
>> In the sentence:
>> abhyadhāvat susaṃkruddhaḥ prajāḥ kāla ivāntakaḥ
>> kāla can be taken as representing kālaḥ (Nom.), or kāle (Loc.).  
>> M-W
>> favors the Nom., Pollock, clearly, the Loc. In other words, M-W
>> identifies kāla with antaka: Time (kāla) as Destroyer (antaka).
>> Pollock has Death (antaka) in the fated hour (kāle).
>> As I see it, Pollock's reading obscures the deeper meaning of the
>> Viradha episode - as a deliberate (and dehumanizing) satire. Which
>> ridicules the attempts at un-regulated, aggressive acculturation:  
>> they
>> may (and do) produce only worthless, garbled imitations, and
>> conceptual monstrosities.
>> Thank you for both the links.
>> Some ramblings of mine re time in the Mahabharata can be found in my
>> paper on the concept of time and time reckoning in Indian tradition:
>> _W poszukiwaniu doskonałości: czas i kalendarz w tradycji  
>> indyjskiej_
>> (In search of perfection: time and calendar in Indian tradition),
>> [in:] Izabela Trzcińska (ed.), _Tajemnica czasu i religie_, Aureus,
>> Kraków 2005, pp. 78-99. If anyone would want to read the Polish  
>> text,
>> I can gladly send them pdf copies off-list.
>> Regards,
>> Artur

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list