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5-Ashwamedh Parv

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5-Jaimini's Ashwamedh Parv, Uttar Raam Charit-2
Copied from Satya Chaitanya's blog site

Jaaminiya Ashwamedh Parv - Uttar Raam Charit
When Valmiki sees Seetaa who is wailing aloud in the hair-raisingly terrible jungle filled with fearsome animals, Jaimini tells us, he approaches Her and asks Her who She is, whose daughter and whose wife She is and why She has come to the uninhabited jungle. She introduces Herself as Janak’s daughter, Dasharath’s daughter-in-law and Raam’s wife. She also tells him that She has been abandoned by Raam for reasons She does not know. Vaalmeeki consoles Her telling Her not to worry and introduces himself. He then takes Her with him to his ashram and Seetaa goes with him quietly.

In Vaalmeeki Raamaayan these scenes are different. While Jaimini's Vaalmeeki has to ask Her who She is, in the Raamaayan, Vaalmeeki knows everything about Her without asking. In fact, he consoles Her by addressing Her as Janak’s daughter, Dasharath's daughter-in-law, and Raam's wife and tells Her not to worry, the Aashram is like a home to Her. He tells Her he knows everything about Her with the power of his asceticism, knows why She has been abandoned, and knows She is pure.

Later, Vaalmeeiki Raamaayan tells us in what is perhaps a later interpolation that Seetaa gives birth to the twins the same night as Shatrughn reaches the Aashram on his way to slay Lavanaasur. Hearing of the birth of Seetaa's children, Shatrughn goes and meets Sieetaa and speaks of the grace of God. Next morning he leaves the Aashram. It is twelve years later that Shatrughn comes back to Ayodhyaa and this time again he pays a visit to the Aashram and listens to the Raamaayan composed by Vaalmeeki. We are not told who sings it, but we are told that both the text and the narration is so realistic and powerful that Shatrughn faints while listening to it because of the emotions it awakens in him. The soldiers with Shatrughn pass through the same emotions.

One surprising thing here is that Shatrughn does not enquire about Seetaa or her children – there is no mention of them. It is this that first makes us wonder if the chapter in which we are told that Seetaa gave birth to the twins on the night Shatrughn reaches Vaalmeeki Aashram is not a later interpolation. Otherwise it is impossible that Shatrughn does not ask any question about Seetaa and Her children. Also, there is another thing suggests this chapter might be an interpolation. In the chapter describing the birth of the twins and Shatrughn visiting Seetaa and them, we are told this happened around midnight – other Aashram people come and tell Vaalmeeki about the birth at midnight. But the next chapter begins by saying that as night appeared, Shatrughn asked Chyavan about Lavan. The narration here is chronological and it is impossible that after the midnight events of such importance are mentioned, you suddenly start talking about be beginning of the night and a conversation like this. It is also indicated that the conversation with Chyavan went on the whole morning. Shatrughn does not say a word to Raam when he meets him in Ayodhyaa about meeting Seetaa in the Aashram, either on his way to Lavanaasur or on his way back.

Soon Raam performs the Ashwamedh in Naimish Aaranya. It is done so that Raam is freed from the sin of Brahm Hatyaa, which he had accrued by slaying Raavan, a Braahman. And it is from here that we find some of the most amazing changes Jaimini introduces in telling the Uttar Raam Kathaa. He adds some dramatically powerful scenes to the story and drops other equally, if not more, powerful scenes.

The Ashwamedh begins in Naimish Aranya on the banks of the Gomatee, with a golden statue of Seetaa taking the place of Seetaa. While the Ashwamedh is in progress, Vaalmeeki arrives there accompanied by his disciples Kush and Lav. Vaalmeeki orders Kush and Lav to go around the whole place, singing the Raamaayan – at the hermitages of the Rishi, the dwellings of the Braahman, royal palaces, highways and byways, everywhere. If Raam asks them to sing the Raamayana in front of him, Vaalmeeki tells his disciples, they must do so to the best of their ability. "If Raam asks you whose sons you are, tell him you are disciples of Vaalmeeki." the sage instructs them.

As expected, Raam hears their singing and is fascinated. He invites them into the assembly and asks them to sing it there. At the end of the day, by which time they have chanted twenty cantos, they are offered a reward and but they refuse it, as Vaalmeeki had instructed them, saying that they do not need money since they live in the forest. To Raam's enquiry about the author of the poem, they say it is composed by Vaalmeeki and consists of 24,000 verses. It is arranged that on subsequent days the singing of Raamaayan will continue in between the Ashwamedh.

It is through the song [Raamaayan] that they sing, that Raam learns Kush and Lav are Seetaa's sons. He sends messengers to Vaalmeeki, telling him that if Seetaa is pure and if there is no sin in her, with the sage’s permission she should take an oath to that effect in the assembly the next morning. The messengers go to the sage and give Raam's message to him and he tells them to inform the king that Seetaa will do as desired by Raam because to a woman, her husband is her God. A pleased Raam sends out messages to the sages, Braahman, kings and all others to be present in the assembly in Naimish Aranya the next morning.

The next morning Raam himself goes and invites the great sages present in Naimish Aranya and everyone else available to the assembly to witness Seetaa taking the oath of purity.

What follows is one of the most powerful scenes in world literature, modern and ancient. Maybe there are other scenes equal to it in power and emotional intensity, but none surpasses it. And one of the most amazing things about it is that, it is achieved with a minimum use of words and devoting very little space.

While the assembly and invited guests are waiting, Vaalmeeki walks in, followed by Seetaa quietly walking behind him. Her eyes are overflowing with tears, her palms are joined as in prayer, and her heart is on Raam. The Raamaayan sees it as the beautiful picture of Shruti following Brahm. Great sorrow rises up in the assembly at her sight and people give expression that their grief.

Addressing Raam, the great sage says, “Oh son of Dasharath, here is Seetaa, pious and practicing religious vows. Because of censure, you had abandoned her near my Aashram. To you who fear the censure of the world, She will give proof [of her purity]; permit Her to do so. These two are Seeata's children, born twins. These are your children – I vouch for the truth of it."

“I am the tenth son of Prachetaa, of scion of the Raghu's. I do not remember ever speaking a word of untruth and I tell you, these are your children. I have done ages of Tapas, and if Seetaa is evil, let me know attain the results of that Tapas. I have not once in my entire life committed a sin in thoughts, words or actions. And let good results of that not come to me only if Seetaa is sinless. Every element that forms Seetaa is pure and so is Her mind. I meditated upon this and saw the truth of it before I accepted Her on the banks of the river in the forest. She is pure in conduct; She is sinless; to Her, Her husband is God. And now She shall give the proof of it to you who fear the censure of the world."

A sage does not take oaths lightly. The greatest sage of the age vouches for Seetaa's purity in the name of everything sacred to him. He speaks words I am sure he has never uttered in the past, but for her sake he speaks them.

Raam assures the sage that He knows Seetaa is pure – She has proved it before the gods themselves. And He knows the twins are his sons. But, says He, the censure of the world is powerful and for that reason He will accept Her when She proves it again there, in the assembly. And He asks the sage’s forgiveness for saying this.

The Raamaayan says all the gods in Heaven appeared there to witness Seetaa taking the oath of purity.

All this while, Seetaa has been standing behind Raam silently, her hands folded, her face cast down. As a sacred breeze starts blowing through the assembly, Seetaa, dressed in ochre, steps forward. She does not look at Raam once, though She hasnt seen him after that evening in Ashok Vaatikaa years ago. She does not look at the men in the assembly. She does not look at Vaalmeeki. Her eyes remain on the ground at her feet.

And then Her soft spoken words ring out in the silent assembly. "If I have even once thought of a man other than Raam in my mind, then, Mother Earth, open up for me. If I have always worshipped Raam by thoughts, words and actions, then, Mother Earth, open up for me. I know no man other than Raam – if these my words are true, Mother Earth, open up for me."

There is no begging for acceptance here. There is no hesitation. There are no more any longings in her heart. She wants to rest now – rest in the lap of Mother Earth.

Her words stun the assembly. They stun the sages and Braahman. They stun the ministers and common men. They stun Raam.

With unbelieving eyes they see the earth splits open before them. From the opening rises up a divine throne adorned with divine ornaments, borne on the head of powerful serpents. On the throne is seated Goddess Earth. The Goddess stretches out her arms and speaks words of welcome to her daughter. She seats Seetaa beside her and the throne descends into the earth.

The Heavens and the gods shower flowers upon Seetaa. The sky and the earth are filled with the sounds of approval. And in the middle of all that, while a stunned audience watches, Seetaa disappears into the earth.

She gives proof of her purity in a way no one will ever again question.

Raam will no more have to worry about the censure of the world because of Her.

That is how Seetaa's story ends in Vaalmeeki Raamaayan.

In Jaimini's story, there is no mention of Shatrughn reaching Vaalmeeki Aashram on the night Kush and Lav are born. The children are of course taught the Raamaayan by Vaalmeeki, but it is as warriors that they grow up in the Aashram and it is as warriors that we see them in the story. Vaalmeeki gives them two bows and his friend Rishi Raibhya {Raibhya was the friend of Rishi Bharadwaaj] gives them two quivers that never go empty. Other sages give them all kinds of weapons empowered by Mantra.

In Vaalmeeki Raamaayan we do not hear about the wanderings of the sacrificial horse. But in Jaimini, this is described in great detail. The most significant part of the Ashwamedh story begins when the sacrificial horse, guarded by an army headed by Shatrughn, reaches Vaalmeeki Aashram.

The sage is away at Paataal, invited there by Varun for a sacrifice. It is Lav who sees the sacrificial horse and captures it. He is challenged by the note tied to its forehead, which says, among other things, that Raam is the only true hero in the world and his mother Kaushalyaa, the sole mother of a true hero. This infuriates Lav who asks: "Is our mother barren then? Hasn’t she given birth to an unsurpassed hero?"

It is refreshing to note here that Jaimini uses highly colloquial language much of the time in his telling. Lav’s speech here is charmingly colloquial.

A fierce battle follows, in which Lav proves himself an amazingly skilled warrior who is no less than Shatrughn in the battlefield. Eventually Shatrughn uses a sacred, infallible arrow. Though Lav breaks the arrow in two, he is wounded by one half of the arrow and faints. Shatrughn had been feeling great compassion for Lav throughout for two reason – for one thing, he is no more than a child, and another, he resembles child Raam in every way. He gathers the wounded, fainted Lav in his arms and carries him to his chariot.

Seetaa hears from Aashram children that Lav has been wounded in the battlefield by some great warrior and wails at the news. It is then that Kush who was away in the forest returns. She sends him to the battlefield. in the battle that follows, Kush kills Shatrughna’s commander-in-chief and his bother. Shatrughn faints at the fierceness of Kush’s attack. The rest of the soldiers run away to Ayodhyaa to give Raam the news.

By the time Lakshman, sent by Raam, reaches the battlefield with a fierce army, Lav regains consciousness and joins the battle. Together, the two boys rout Lakshman’s army. Kush kills Lakshman’s commander-in-chief Kaalajit and renders Lakshman unconscious, in battles described in at length by Jaimini in passages that remind us of the Mahaabhaarat battle scenes.

Raam cannot go to the battlefield, since he has taken Deekshaa for the sacrifice. Bharat now volunteers to go. But before he does so, he has a few interesting words to say to Raam.

He tells Raam not to grieve about Lakshman – what has happened to him is exactly what he wanted to happen. He had no desire to live ever since he took Seetaa and left Her in the jungle. In fact, he did not want to come back to Ayodhyaa after that but did so only to give Raam the news. But in spite of all that, Raam showed no kindness either to Seetaa or to Lakshman. He has ever since been courting death. Lakshman has voluntarily chosen death along with his brother Shatrughn. Lakshman has finally freed himself from sin and now it is his turn to do so – he too is a sinner. In fact, he says, he had thought of killing himself when Raam abandoned Seetaa, but he did not want to do it in Ayodhyaa. Today his desire to end his life will be fulfilled and Raam should permit him by letting him go to the battle.

The strong guilt the brothers feel about Raam's abandoning Seetaa is an additional feature of Jaimini Bhaarat. They see Raam's action totally unwarranted and unjustified and their guilt about it is so strong, that all three of them want to kill themselves. Though Jaimini does not expressly say it, they feel they too are responsible since they did not stop Raam from doing it.

In the battle with Kush that follows, Angad, Nal, Jaambvaan, and Bharat, all fall into deathlike unconsciousness, seeing which Hanumaan attacks Kush and he too is becomes unconscious in Kush's counter attack. When Raam in Ayodhyaa is informed of this, He too reaches the battlefield, accompanied by Sugreev. Initially Raam refuses to fight with Kush and Lav, seeing they are mere children, but they force him and Sugreev and a fierce battle ensues between the two sides in which the children become victorious and Raam and Sugreev become unconscious, wounded by their arrows.

Kush and Lav have an idea now. They will tie up Hanumaan and Jaambavaan and present them to Seetaa, who, they believe, will be entertained by them. Hanumaan and Jaambvaan come out of their swoon by then, but they pretend to be still unconscious. When Seetaa sees them, she asks her sons to take them back into the battlefield and release them, fearing their death if they saw Her.

Having described the valor of Lav and Kush and the battle scenes in great detail, Jaimini now, with almost shocking abruptness, ends Raam's Uttar Kathaa, which he calls Kush-Lav Upaakhyaan.

As Seetaa and Her sons are talking, Vaalmeeiki reaches back from Paataal. The children tell their Guru all that has happened. He straight away goes to the battlefield, sprinkles empowered water on all and brings back all from death and unconsciousness. "These are your children," he tells Raam. "Please accept them. And if you consider Seetaa innocent, please take Her too with you."

An amazed Raam gets up and goes back to Ayodhyaa to continue his sacrifice. While the sacrifice is in progress, Vaalmeeki reaches there with Seetaa and Her sons. Raam completes the sacrifice with them beside him and they all live 'happily ever after', their lives filled with love.

As an afterword to his story, Jaimini adds that Vaalmeeki did not describe the tale of the battle between the father and his sons because he did not want the world to drown in an ocean of sorrow.


Jaimini’s telling of the Kush-Lav Upaakhyaan caught the imagination of India. Ever since he told it, it became an integral part of the Uttar Raamaayan story. I remember watching scenes of the battles of Kush and Lav with their uncles and with Hanuman. I watched them holding my breath as a child in second and third rate reproductions of them in movies. Five decades later, I can still recall the scenes with vivid intensity, in spite of the movies being of very poor quality; such is the power of Jaimini’s narration.

It is interesting to consider why Jaimini gives so much importance to these battle scenes which do not exist in Vaalmeeki Raamaayan.

Perhaps Jaimini was writing for a different audience than Vaalmeeki [and Vyaas] did. There are several strong indications that Jaimini's is a much later composition than the Aadi Kavi's and Vyaas'. For instance, in both Vaalmeeki and Vyaas, all messages are sent verbally, suggesting the absence of writing at the time of the composition of their works. Whereas in Jaimini we clearly see that writing exists. The Ashwamedh horse carries a written message, probably on a plaque, on its forehead, which people read. In the story of Chandrahaas, the girl Vishayaa changes the word Vish [poison] in a written message to Vishayaa [her name]. [A very interesting episode! Chandrahaas who was supposed to be given Vish on arrival is given Vishayaa instead.] The social milieu and the customs described are very different too. Perhaps Jaimini's audience relished the details of the Ashwamedh – both in the case of Raam Ashwamedh and Yudhishthir Ashwamedh – more than the audience of Vaalmeeki and Vyaas did. Perhaps he was writing in, and for, a medieval India that was torn by constant wars.

Also, perhaps poetic and literary conventions had undergone great changes and people expected happy endings to stories. In the case of Jaimini, he very obviously had in mind a happy ending for the Raamaayan, even if it forces him to drop one of the most powerful scenes in the Raamaayan and in world literature. He therefore drops the dramatically awesome scene of Seetaa's rejection of Raam and entering the earth. Instead, he makes Seetaa tamely go with Vaalmeeki to Raam and live with him 'happily ever after'.

I do not see the Uttar Kaand of Vaalmeeki Ramayan as a later composition than Jaiminiya Ashwamedh Parv. To me, it has to be that Jaimini chose to omit Seetaa's entering the earth, a story he was familiar with.

But it must be said that while Jaimini's ending of the story comes as a big disappointment, his war scenes in the Kush-La Upaakhyaan are thrilling. He transforms two young boys who are really just talented singers in the Vaalmeeki Raamaayan into awesome warriors who defeat between themselves such a mighty line of warriors as Shatrughn, Lakshman, Bharat and Raam, apart from Hanumaan, Jaambvaan, Sugreev, Angad, Nal and numerous others, each a legend in his own right as a warrior.

While in the earlier part of his telling of the Uttar Raam Kathaa, Jaimini focus on pathos and succeeds in moving us to great depths of Karunaa, in the later part of the story what he wants is to thrill us with Veer Ras – with the valor of his heroes – and he succeeds admirably in it too.



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Created by Sushma Gupta On 03/09/02
Modified on 12/01/12