KUMBHAKARNA ( Part 1)

மரபு விக்கி இருந்து

தாவிச் செல்ல: வழிசெலுத்தல், தேடுக

பொருளடக்கம்

The two opposite paths of Dharma

Kumbakarna belongs to that category of warriors for whom implicit obedience mattered more than anything else…

“The love of Lakshmana and Rama has cast a halo round the name of Vibishana and the whole of Vaishnava India has included him in its catalogue of saints and Bhaktas. But the loyalty of Kumbakarna to his nation and to his king makes him the more interesting and the more loveable of the two brothers of Ravana. For, though he upbraids Ravana for his crime in carrying off Sita and retaining her in Lanka, he would not leave his side and betray his secrets to his enemy though he comes to know that enemy to be God himself in human form.”

Thus wrote Sri VVS Aiyar on Kumbakarna in his ‘Kamba Ramayanam A Study.’ Kumbakarnan is a minor character in the epic whose appearance is limited to just more than one padalam – around 360 verses at the most, out of a total of 12000 verses. Much is not spoken about this rakshasa hero, may be perhaps people were of the opinion that the good deeds of a rakshasa need not be acknowledged or may be because that he fought for Ravana, against Sri Rama.

If one studies the epic with due attention, dispassionately, it could be seen that almost all the rakshasas who were closely related to Ravana had at one point of time or the other advised him against his misdeed of retaining Sita. That includes Indrajit. But in the case of Indrajit, the realisation dawned rather late, when he realised that Sri Rama and Lakshmana may be the Supreme Lord in human form, when his Narayana asthra against them failed. In the war council of Ravana we see Indrajit speaking haughtily against all values and in favour of his father. He could not see what was right and what was wrong. Therefore, the advice of Indrajit to return Sita was based more on fear than on values. We can see bravery in him. Youthful valour in him. Passion, affection for his father, pride over his heritage. But we cannot call him ‘good’ because his idea of values was not as keen as they should have been.

On the other hand, Vibishana was against what Ravana did. His sense of values was miles ahead of others. In fact it cannot be compared, as most of the others did not even have an elementary idea of values. If you are stronger than the other person, well, you can even covet his wife. That is simply right. Might is right. Others pinned their faith on this one line. You can do whatever you want until you are stronger than your opponent. Vibishana advised his brother against his deeds and left his side as he sincerely felt that he could not support adharma.

That is one way of looking at it. There is yet another way. I do not agree with what my king – or any superior authority – feels or does. I advice him against it. I strongly feel that this path should not be pursued. But my superior is dependent on me for support and feels that I have a duty to obey him. My sense of values tells me that I should obey him and execute his orders, though I am sure that I will fail in my endeavour. I feel that if my failure serves to open the eyes of my superior there ends the purpose of my life.

Kumbakarna’s sacrifice belongs to this category. Let us see this in detail.

The two opposite paths of Dharma II

Kumbakarna criticises Ravana in the War Council openly. In fact he was the first to speak against Ravana’s misdeed…

Kumbakarna did not approve of what Ravana did. In fact the first voice of protest in the War Council of Ravana was that of Kumbakarna’s. He very strongly differed with Ravana. It may be recalled that Ravana whipped up passions and emotions in his opening speech in the war council. (Of councils and counsels IV) He argued that a monkey could set ablaze the well fortified Lanka had brought dishonour, discredit and disrepute to the entire rakshasa race and that it deserved to be punished. Even the very great Ravana painted a picture that included the entire race so that everyone sees a personal failure and personal loss in it. He carefully chose to suppress the reason that was at the bottom of this all.

‘You are talking about honour and reputation of the Rakshasa race. When your wives are standing here with a smile for you, you walk to that grove, fall at the feet of another man’s wife, and beg her for her love. Do you think that this would in any way add to the reputation of the race?’ The first question of protest came from Kumbakarna.

‘Our reputation went down the sewers the very day you brought Sita here, against all the holy books that regulate kingship. ஆசில் பரதாரம் அஞ்சிறை அடைப்பேம்   – we will imprison the wife of another man who did not harm us in any way; மாசில் புகழ் காதல் உறுவேம் – and fall in untainted love with her. பேசுவது மானம்  – we speak so much of self-respect. இடை பேணுவது காமம்   – but what we nurture is lust.   கூசுவது மானிடரை – we chide men (the weak human beings). நன்று நம் கொற்றம்  – what a fine kingship is ours!

What you have done is against the established order. kulach chirumai seidhaai. You have brought disrepute to our race. Any way, what you have done cannot be undone now. If we send Sita back, the world would see that as our weakness. Therefore, we are left with no option but to fight back. Let us go with a massive army to the mainland and not wait until they come here.

I am giving hereunder the parallel scene from Valmiki.

"Hearing the wail of Ravana, who was overwhelmed with passion, Kumbhakarna flew into a rage and spoke the following words: "Even as the river Yamuna fills the depression near its source the moment it descends on earth, your mind ought to have sought careful deliberation (with us) the very moment when the aforesaid Sita was actually borne away here by force after a single impulsive thought from the hermitage of Rama, who was accompanied by Lakshmana. All this doing (of yours), O great king, is unworthy of you. Deliberation ought to have been held with us at the very beginning of this act. A monarch who discharges his kingly duties with justice, his mind having determined his purpose (in consultation with his counsellors), does not (have to) repent O Ravana! Actions which are undertaken without recourse to fair means and run counter to the principles of righteousness beget sin even as oblations used in impure sacrifices (undertaken or malevolent purposes)...

Before Rama strikes me violently once more with a second arrow, I shall drink his blood. Therefore be fully restored to confidence. By making short work of Rama (son of Dasaratha) I shall try my best to bring victory which will conduce to your happiness. Nay, having killed Rama along with Lakshmana, I shall devour all the leaders of monkey hordes. Enjoy life fully, drink the most excellent wine and, rid of anxiety, perform actions (which are) conducive to your welfare. When Rama for his part has been dispatched to the abode of death by me, Sita will submit to your will for long." (The Valmiki Ramayana, Gita Press, Gorakhpur -Vol. II Page 265.)

We will continue our analysis in our next instalment. Observe the tone of Kumbhakarna’s speech in Valmiki and in Kamban until then.

The two opposite paths of Dharma III

We are able to see that Kumbhakarna is not sure about a win against Rama. This is something amazing that this rakshasa full of pride speaks in this strain.

Valmiki’s Kumbhakarna starts with a strong censure of Ravana. He ends his speech with words of hope and assurance that he would kill Rama. “Before Rama strikes me violently once more with a second arrow, I shall drink his blood. Therefore be fully restored to confidence.” The words ‘once more with a second arrow’ make it obvious that Kumbhakarna acknowledges the fact that Rama’s arrows would pierce him at least once.

Kamban modifies the version. Kamban’s Kumbhakarnan speaks to Ravana thus: ‘Thou hast left the path of the righteous and thou hast made us hang down our heads; but if at this stage we send away the fair Sita, we shall be merely called cowards. It does not matter if we die, for, then our fame at least would remain unsullied.’

We are able to see that Kumbhakarna is not sure about a win against Rama. This is something amazing that this rakshasa full of pride speaks in this strain. Remember. Kumbakarna overpowered Indra. His physical stature was so colossal that he lifted the Ayraavadham, the four-tusked white elephant of Indra above his head and propelled it round his head holding it by its trunk, as a shot-put thrower would do, and hurled it over a long distance. If he speaks in such a manner, it makes it very obvious that he has already realised that Rama was the Supreme one Himself. This speech precedes Vibishana’s speech.

Though he speaks against ‘sending away the fair Sita’ in the war council, he takes a different viewpoint later when Ravana wakes him up to go to the battlefield. ‘  ஆனதோ வெஞ் சமம் ?’ ‘Has the battle started?’ was his first reaction when he was woken up to be sent to the war. The next question follows. ' அலகில் கற்புடைச் சானகி துயர் இனம் தவிர்ந்தது இல்லையோ? ‘ Have the sufferings of Janaki – chaste beyond compare – not come to an end as yet?’ The words ‘chaste beyond compare’ alagil karpudai (a literal translation would mean: அலகு இல்  – without measure; க்ற்பு – chastity) fall from his mouth so very naturally. ‘Has the battle started? Have you not yet sent her back? Are we going to lose our honour and reputation that all the worlds and the skies envied? Is our doom drawing near? O Ravana this shows that Fate is stronger.’

How did his view change? V V S Aiyar observes here -

“When however Ravana finds his enemy’s strength by bitter experience, he has Kumbhakarna awakened from his sleep and after feeding him with cartloads of meat and casksful of wine, asks him to march against the Vanara army. The words of Vibhishana, which he had heard at the time of the war council, must be supposed to have impressed themselves upon Kumbhakarnan’s mind and entered deeply into his soul during his hibernation…”

Vibhishana, when he started his speech and narrated the story of Iraniyan to Ravana, had mentioned –

It was not a monkey that set fire to your entire kingdom and might Ravana ( வானரம் சுட்டது என்று உணர்தல் மாட்சியோ ). They were reduced to ashes by the blazing fire of purity of Janaki, who is the mother of all worlds ( உலகின் தம்மனை ஆனவள் கற்பினால் வெந்தது ).

The observation of Sri Aiyar refers to these and similar words of Vibhishana in the council.

The wake up and after

Kumbhakarna was woken up with much difficulty. Ravana did not expect that Kumbhakarna would advise him to send Sita back.

Ravana would not have expected such a stiff resistance from his younger brother. He was always his right hand. He had won glorious victories for Ravana. He of course, was not endowed with divine boons as other rakshasas. The only boon he had was sleeping for a number of months at a stretch.

When the Lord appeared before Kumbhakarna at the end of his penance, the Devas were afraid that if this demon of demons is endowed with divine boons as well, he would become the most formidable enemy and would pose the worst threat to them. Therefore they requested Saraswathi to make him fumble for words so that he mispronounces the word by which he beseeched his boon. Kumbhakarna intended to ask for ‘nithyathva’ (permanence) instead asked for ‘nidhrathva’ (slumber forever). The Lord without a moment’s delay granted the boon and disappeared. Kumbhakarna had to pursue his penance once again to get an amendment to the boon – to reduce the length of sleep to half the year!

In terms of might, even Ravana was no match to him. By physical stature Kumbakarna was much taller than Ravana. Kamban says ‘ இருந்த போதும் இராவணன் நின்றெனத் தெரிந்த மேனியன் ’ Ravana would equal the height of Kumbha karna when the latter squats on the floor. He was the most endeared brother of Ravana. In fact Ravana treasured him, because of the glories that resulted from his wars with the Devas. Kamban with his inimitable sense of humour puts it ‘when Kumbhakarna wakes up from his ‘aaz thuyil’ (deep sleep) the Devas would undergo the same travails that the asuras would undergo when Vishnu wakes up from his ‘ari thuyil’ (divine sleep – all knowing sleep).

At first Ravana was under the impression that he could handle these ‘two handed weaklings’. But it turned out to be a fiasco. Ravana lost his chariot, weapons and all his army. He tasted disgrace for the first time. (Ravana had been defeated earlier by Vali and Karthaveeryarjunan also. But it was not this disgraceful.) He was standing on the ground. He was sent back by the magnanimity of Rama, to come prepared for war the next day. ‘ நடந்துபோய் நகரம் புக்கான் ’ is how Kamban describes it. He walked back to his city. Height of disgrace! When did he walk the ground? When he sets out, he would either be on his chariot or his pushpaka vimana. The only emperor with a plane in those days!

It became then inevitable to wake up Kumbhakarna. Kumbhakarna had fallen asleep just before the island was besieged by Rama, Lakshmana and the Vanaras. Simple calculations of the number of days mentioned in the epic from the day on which Maruti set fire to Lanka would go to show that it would have been less than a month since he went to sleep. The night was therefore, still young for him.

He was woken up with great difficulty. But Ravana did not expect that Kumbhakarna would advise him to send Sita back. He was taken aback.

Demon or devotee?

If one thinks a little deeper, it will be accepted that scripture is scripture, whether it is quoted by Satan or Saint and doesn’t lose its validity…

‘They are the very embodiment of Dharma, Ravana, and what are we? We are experts at scheming, lying and sinning (vanjamum, paavamum poiyum valla naam). Do we expect to win against Dharma? Do you dream of it? Ah Ravana! The most powerful monkeys that can cross the ocean and reach this island are there; the arrows that could drill through the solid chest of Vali are there; and we* are here too, Ravana, to receive them on our chest! What else do you want! What else can you expect!’

(*It is not possible to translate the word ‘yaam’ in English, exactly. The English pronoun ‘we’ is inclusive. It includes the second person, Ravana. But in Tamil it excludes the second person. It would simply mean the first person (Kumbakarna) and third person (all other rakshasas). This difference is necessary to have a feel of the sarcasm that bubbles in Kumbakarna’s address to Ravana. )

‘Listen to me brother! I am speaking all these words with your welfare in mind. If you don’t listen to me, please understand that you are moving closer to your death. You have just two options. thaiyalai vittu Send Sita back; avan saranam thaazndhu fall at the feet of Rama; nin aiyyaru thambiyOdu aLvaLAvudhal uyy thiram and befriend our brother, Vibishana. That is the only path for your salvation. If you don’t want to take this, decide now. Collect all our army and let us get into the battlefield with all our force. Perhaps we have a distant chance of survival, then. It is not right to send our forces in smaller lots, so convenient for them to kill in batches.’

Kumbakarna speaking of Dharma is nothing short of the Satan quoting the scripture, some may think. But if one thinks a little deeper, it will be accepted that scripture is scripture, whether it is quoted by Satan or Saint and doesn’t lose its validity. However Kumbakarna proves in the end that he is no Satan. Let us see the development of this demon into a devotee, later.

Ravana could take neither. Sending Sita back was out of question. The most powerful Ravana collecting all the army together and fighting after all the two-handed and weak humans and against a herd of monkeys! Shame! Nothing less than shame! So what if Ravana could not win against Rama in the first day’s war? (It is significant to note Ravana did not utter a single word to Kumbakarna about his defeat at the hands of Rama. If Hanuman could justifiably remain silent about his victories, so could Ravana about his defeat!) It was just an accident. It could be amended soon by Kumbakarna and a detachment of rakshasas. That would be more than sufficient.

Ravana’s technique in such circumstances in just standard and unchanging. He would immediately accuse the other person of cowardice. ‘You are speaking thuswise when you are bound by duty to march to the front, because you are afraid. So, have you had your fill? Are you appeased of your hunger? Have you had enough liquor? Go back. Go to your bedchamber and sleep all day and night. (iravum elliyum urangudhi pOi.) It is for you and for your younger brother (who are afraid of death) to fall at the feet of those weaklings of humans and monkeys. I will not do it! Hey! Who is there! Get my chariot ready! I will go now and kill those puny ‘two hands’!

Just a cursory reading of the epic is sufficient to see through the cunning, pretentious, crafty duplicity of Ravana. Kumbakarna knew this intuitively. He could read through Ravana’s mind. But Ravana had deliberately, cruelly and deftly hit him on his soft spot. ‘You have eaten. You have drunk enough. Now you can retire and hibernate. Don’t worry about your duty.’ senj chottruk kadan is what it is known as. One is supposed to be true to his salt.

Demon or devotee? II

Kumbakarna and Vibishana were pursuing two different and diagonally opposite paths. But both were pursuing the path of Dharma…

Feeding is (or at least ‘was’!) one of the easiest ways to annex the loyalty of others. Salya, the maternal uncle of Nakula, Sahadeva ate the meal served by Dhuriyodana quite unknowingly and joined the side of Dhuriyodana, even against his own wish, just because he had accepted the meal. Kumbakarna’s loyalty is questioned now. Ravana has not accepted his views. His spike-decorated words made his heart bleed. It is loyalty and more than that self-respect that is in question now.

‘Stop it,’ he said. He knew Ravana would not have woken him up unless it was an emergency. He could see that Ravana was just enacting a put on show. ‘I will go and fight. வென்று இவண் வருவென் என்று உரைக்கிலேன் But I can’t say that I will come back. Vidhi nindru pidar pidiththu undhukindrathu. Fate is pushing me by the neck. Pondurvan. I will die. Pondrinal, and if I die, polan koL thOLiyai nandru ena naayaga vidudhi nandru arO’ It will be for your good to set Sita free (please send her back at least after my death.)

The next verse shocks us even more. ennai vendru uLar enil ilangai kaavala If they can kill me, O King of Lanka, unnai vendru uyarudhal uNNmai It is not difficult for them to vanquish you. Kumbakarna clearly gives the message, ‘Ravana, I am superior to you in strength. And you think I am afraid. I know it for certain that I cannot come back. I will die. If that would be my fate, it would be yours too, and they need not exert themselves too much for it.’ And it also puts Ravana in his place. ‘Ravana, I know that you would have gone to the battlefield before me. If you felt that it was necessary for you to wake me up, I also know what would have really happened.’

Kumbakarna, when he went to the battlefield, was fully aware that he would not return. He decided to fight for his brother since he was bound by his duty as a soldier to do so, no matter what his personal opinion was about the cause. He was a soldier. He had a duty to discharge to his king. And that was that. His only prayer to Ravana was to realise the truth at least after his death.

Though he went to the warfront with the clear knowledge that he would not survive, he did more than his best in his fight against Rama and others. In fact, it was the most unbelievable exhibition of chivalry and loyalty that he displayed there. We will go into that in due course.

But before that, what did Kumbakarna think of Vibishana? They were pursuing two different and diagonally opposite paths. But both were pursuing the path of Dharma. Each had his own swadharma to follow. Kumbakarna expresses this in his conversation with Vibishana in the field. His reasoning, his expression of what he stands for and how he looks at Vibishana’s stand put him on an exceedingly high pedestal. His conversation with Vibishana is so charged with affection, love, and sense of duty and ends with a sudden and decisive note. Really, if one comes to know of his prayer to Rama at the time of his death, one would just melt, shed tears over this loveable but most misunderstood character.

Why did you come back?

Kumbhakarna was shocked to see Vibishana walking to him. He was confused. ‘Go back to Rama’ he pleaded with him…

‘Who can be this!’ exclaimed Rama, as Kumbakarna entered the battlefield. His massive and imposing physique struck awe everywhere. Rama asked Vibishana, ‘ தோளொடு தோள் செலத் தொடர்ந்து நோக்குறின், நாள் பல கழியுமால் ’ Who is this, whose shoulders are so broad that it may take days for me just to see him from one shoulder to the other ‘தாளு டை மலைகொலாம்; சமரம் வேட்டது ஓர் ஆள் என உணர்கிலேன்’ He looks like a mountain walking on two feet and not like a person coming for war! Vibhishana explained in detail as to who Kumbhakarna was and what were his achievements. He did not fail to mention the voice of protest that Kumbakarna raised in the war council. Sugriva then suggested that Kumbhakarna should be coaxed and convinced to join hands with Rama. Vibishana undertook this job at the behest of Rama.

Meeting of brothers in opposing camps

Kumbhakarna was shocked to see Vibishana walking to him. He was confused. ‘Why should this noble soul come here! Has he already left the side of Rama and has come to join us, the lot that is going to enter hell in a trice! Why is he coming here! (One is reminded of the political scenes today. Kumbhakarna was not as experienced as some of our political leaders, who have seen more instances of parting with and receiving back ‘udan pirappugal!’)

Kumbakarna’s mind was full of questions as Vibishana fell at his feet. ‘ முந்தி வந்து இறைஞ்சினானை, முகந்து உயிர் மூழ்கப் புல்லி’ says Kamban. Kumbakarna motioned him up by his shoulders and embraced him so tight that one soul sunk into the other – உயிர் மூழ்கப் புல்லி. What a wonderful way to describe this act of affection!

‘I heard of the protection that was granted to you by Rama. I was so happy, Vibishana. I was so happy that at least one of us would survive.’ Kumbakarna must have gone into his stupor when Vibishana reached Rama and surrendered unto him. He says ‘I heard.’ Why did you come back? We are gleefully standing at the gates of death, not realising where we stand and what we do. ‘  காலன் வாய்க் களிக்கின்றேம் ’

‘Why did you come here Vibhishana? Why did you come back? You performed penance and received the boon of immortality. You are endowed with wisdom. You stand by the side of Dharma always. ‘ சாதியின் புன்மை இன்னும் தவிர்ந்திலை போலும், தக்கோய் ! ’ It appears that have you still not quit thinking and acting like one belonging to the rakshasa race! How come that you chose to join us back? I was so happy that at least one of us would survive.’ You know why Kumbakarna wants Vibishana to survive? It is for his own good and it is for the welfare of the Rakshasa race. ‘For if you come back to us and die with us, there will be none of us left to cremate our corpses lying here in the battlefield. ‘ கையினால் எள்நீர் நல்கிக் கடன் கழிப்பாரைக் காட்டாய்.’ Who will perform the funeral rites and other obsequies for us? Go to him. Return to him soon, if you intend to do me anything good. You should come back only as the King of Lanka, Vibishana.’

Such display of affection! Such noble words!


Hari Krishnan


பங்களிப்பாளர்கள்

Dev மற்றும் Hariki

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இப்பக்கம் கடைசியாக 16 ஏப்ரல் 2010, 17:43 மணிக்குத் திருத்தப்பட்டது. இப்பக்கம் 12,387 முறைகள் அணுகப்பட்டது.