Hedonistic Themes in the Ramayana


As narrated in the Valmiki Ramayana, after Rama's victorious vanquishing of Ravana and prior to Sita's banishment from the palace, Lord Rama and Sita enjoyed their reign in Ayodhya indulging in eating meat, drinking wine and being entertained by celestial nymphs (apsaras).  Rama and Sita, who are worshipped by Hindus and simultaneously regarded as supreme figures to emulate, did not let Hindu ideals such as vegetarianism deter their quest for jubilant times in the kingdom.

I.  Non-vegetarian Rama
II.  Wine-drinking Sita



I.  Non-vegetarian Rama

Rama's non-vegetarian inclinations are apparent early in the Valmiki Ramayana; in Ayodhyakanda sarga 20, he laments to his mom Kausalya about his imminent exile from the kingdom into the forest (due to his wicked co-mom Kaikeyi's plot) during which he would be abstaining from meat as is served at the palace:

"[Rama:] 'I shall live in the forest for fourteen years abstaining from animal food and living on tuberous roots and fruits like unto the ascetics. The king shall confer upon Bharata the heir-apparentship and shall banish me as an ascetic into the forest. And I shall live in that solitary forest for eight and six years, feasting on roots, and fruits and performing the duties of a hermit.' " -- Ramayana 2:20.  [Dutt, Manmatha Nath.  The Ramayana: translated into English prose from the original Sanskrit of Valmiki.  Calcutta: Deva Press, 1889-94.  Vol. I.  p.246].

However, Rama resumes his meat-consumption (and alcohol-consumption) upon returning to Ayodhya after his coronation, as revealed in the next quote.


II.  Wine-drinking Sita

After recovering his kidnapped wife Sita from Lanka, Rama's coronation is performed upon returning to Ayodhya.  Both Rama and Sita spend their evenings enjoying wine as well as succulent well-cooked meats in the Asoka-grove.  The following quote which captures this regal scene is from Uttarakanda sarga 52 (or sarga 42 in some editions) of Valmiki Ramayana:

"All the trees in the forest were filled with flowers. And the rocks there, covered with flowers falling down from trees, appeared like welkin beautified with stars. And Rama's Asoka forest was like unto Indra's Nandana and Kuvera's Chitraratha made by Brahma. Having entered the rich Asoka forest abounding in many seats and houses and creepers Rama sat on an excellent seat, covered with a beautiful coverlet and well constructed. Like unto Purandara with Sachi he took Sita by the hand, made her sit and drink the wine distilled in the province of Mira. And in no time the servants brought for him well-cooked meat and various fruits. Being inebriete the beautiful Apsaras, well-skilled in the art of singing and dancing, began to dance before Rama in the company of Kinnaris. The virtuous-souled Rama, the foremost of those who know how to please, satisfied those beautiful damsels adorned with various ornaments. And Sita sitting by him, he appeared like the effulgent Vasishtha in the company of Arundhati. Being greatly delighted the celestial-like Rama pleased every day Sita resembling a celestial damsel. Sita and Raghava (Rama) thus spent their days happily. And thus was spent the delightful winter giving all enjoyments. Enjoying various things the high-souled Rama and Sita spent ten thousand years. Once on a time, having performed all the religious ceremonies, in the fore part of the day, Rama, to spend the evening, entered the inner apartment. Sita, too, having performed all religious ceremonies, at first attended to the service of her mothers-in-law. Thereupon wearing a beautifully coloured cloth and being adorned with various ornaments Sita appeared before Rama like unto Sachi approaching the king of celestials in heaven. And beholding the auspicious signs of pregnancy in his spouse Rama attained to excessive delight." -- Ramayana 7:52.  [Dutt, Manmatha Nath.  The Ramayana: translated into English prose from the original Sanskrit of Valmiki.  Calcutta: Deva Press, 1889-94.  Vol. III.  pp.1716-1717].

As narrated above, Lord Rama and Sita spent ten thousand years enjoying such joyous activities.  Then one day, after Rama impregnated Sita (as illustrated above), rumors of Sita's sexual infidelity with her former captor Ravana were circulating among the populace of Ayodhya.  So, as to avoid offending his subjects and to retain his reputation as a virtuous monarch, Rama banished his pregnant wife into the wilderness, although he knew the rumors were false; from that point on Rama and Sita would eventually meet their demise with the Ramayana ending ultimately as a tragedy, though the two do return to heaven as Lord Vishnu and his consort Laxmi.




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