Lord Rama and Shambuka episode
Dr Vivek Arya
Ramayana is the glorious tale of Lord Rama. Lord Rama is addressed as Maryada Puroshatam which means one who had highly reputed dignity and one who lived his whole life with ethics and principles. The killing of Shambuka by Lord Rama is one of frequently asked doubt. The main allegation is that Shambuka was a Shudra and he was killed helplessly for no crime.
The killing of Shambuka appears in the Uttar kand of Valmiki Ramayana, Book 7, Chapter 73-76. The story is as follows.
An aged peasant, a brahmin, bearing his dead child in his arms came to the palace gate, weeping and crying out again and again “What sin did I commit in a previous existence?" Overcome with paternal grief, he repeated “0 My Son, My Son! Ah! Of what fault was I formerly guilty in another body that I should see mine only son meet with death ? This boy had not yet reached adolescence, his fourteenth year not having been completed! To my misfortune, before his time, this dear child has been struck down by death! In a few days, I and thy mother too will die of grief, 0 Dear Child! I do not recollect ever to have uttered a lie; I do not remember ever inflicting an injury on any animal or doing harm to any person! People perish under the unrighteous rule of an impious monarch. The evil conduct of a king brings about the premature death of his subjects. When, in the cities and country, crimes are committed and no supervision is exercised, then death is to be feared! Undoubtedly the king will be held to be at fault in city and country, hence the death of this child." Such were the countless recriminations that the unfortunate father addressed to the king whilst he clasped his son to his breast. The piteous lamentations of that unfortunate brahmin reached the ears of the king and he, in the profound distress, called together his ministers, Vasishtha and Vamadeva, with his brothers and the elders of the city also. Then eight brahmins were ushered into the king's presence by Vasishtha, who resembled a God, and they said "May prosperity attend thee!" Thereafter those foremost of the Twice-born, Markandeya, Maudgajya, Vamadeva, Kashyapa, Katyayana, Javali, Gautama and Narada took their seats, and those Rishis being assembled, Rama paid obeisance to them with joined palms. Then the ministers and citizens received a cordial welcome, as was fitting, and all those highly effulgent persons being seated near him, Raghava informed them of the reproaches of that Twice-born One. Hearing the words of the prince, who was fined with distress, Narada himself made this memorable reply in the assembly of the Sages “Learn, 0 King, what has caused the untimely death of this child! When thou art conversant therewith, do what thou considerest to be thy duty ! 0 Prince, Joy of the Raghus, formerly in the Krita Yuga, the brahmins alone practiced asceticism; he who was not a brahmin in no wise undertook it. At the close of that age, all was consumed and absorbed into Brahman. Thereafter the 5 brahmins were re-born enlightened and endowed with the gift of immortality. In that age, none died prematurely and all were wise. The Treta Yuga followed when the sons of Manu were born, one who practiced austerities; these noble men were the rulers, and full of power and heroism. In that era, Brahmins and Kshatriyas were equal in power nor could any distinction be found amongst them; it was then that the four castes were established. In the Treta Yuga, brahmins and warriors practiced asceticism and the rest were under the supreme obligation of obedience, proper to the Vaishya and Shudra classes; the Shudras' duty being to serve the other three. 0 Great King, in the Dwapara Yuga, untruth and evil increased, unrighteousness having placed a second foot on the earth, and then the Vaishyas began to practice penance, so that dharma, in the form of asceticism, was performed by the three castes, but the Shudras were not permitted to undertake it during that time, 0 Foremost of Men. 0 Prince, a man of the lowest caste may not give himself up to penance in the Dwapara Yuga; it is only in the Kali Yuga that the practice of asceticism is permitted to the Shudra caste. During the Dwapara Yuga it is a great crime for one of Shudra birth to perform such practices. At this time, in thine empire, a rigid penance is being undertaken by a wretched Shudra, 0 Prince, and this is the cause of the death of that child. An act of mortification that is prescribed is well done and a sixth of the merit goes to the king who rules with justice. But how should he, who does not protect his people, enjoy the sixth portion? 0 Lion among Men, thou should investigate the happenings in thy kingdom and put down evil wherever it is practised, so righteousness may flourish, man's life be prolonged and the child be revived." Rama makes a Tour of Inspection of his Kingdom hearing the nectar-like words of Narada, Rama was delighted and said to Lakshmana “0 Dear Friend, thou who art faithful to thy vows, go and console that leading brahmin and cause the body of the child to be placed in a jar of oil with precious unguents and fragrant salves so that it is covered and does not suffer decomposition. Act in such a way that the body of the child does not dissolve or decay." Having issued this command to Lakshmana, who was endowed with auspicious marks, the highly illustrious Kakutstha thought of Pushpaka, and said “Come hither!" Conscious of his intention, the golden chariot appeared before him in the same hour and bowing, said to him “U Behold, I am here at thy service, 0 Long-armed Prince! U Listening to the gracious words of Pushpaka, Rama paid obeisance to the great Rishis and ascended the chariot. Armed with his bow, his two quivers and his glittering sword, Raghava left the city in the charge of his two brothers, Saumitri and Bharata, and thereafter that monarch directed his course to the western region which he explored on every side; then he went to the northern region bounded by the Himalayas, but found no one. No trace of evil-doing there; later the eastern region was carefully searched by him and that long-armed Prince, from on high in his chariot, beheld people of pure morals there, as stainless as a mirror. Then he, who causes felicity to the great Rishis, ranged the southern region and, on the side of the Shaivaja Mountain, a vast lake appeared to him, on the banks of which the blessed Raghava beheld an ascetic practicing an extremely rigorous penance, his head hanging downwards. On this that Prince approached the one who had given himself up to rigorous practices and said "Blessed art thou, 0 Ascetic, who art faithful to thy vows ! From what caste art thou sprung, 0 Thou who hast grown old in mortification and who art established in heroism. I am interested in this matter, I, Rama, the son of Dasaratha. What purpose hast thou in view? Is it heaven or some other object? What boon dost thou seek by means of this hard penance? I wish to know what thou desire in performing these austerities, o Ascetic. May prosperity attend thee! Art thou a brahmin ? Art thou an invincible Kshatriya? Art thou a Vaishya, one of the third caste or art thou a Shudra? Answer me truthfully !" Then the ascetic, who was hanging head downwards, thus questioned by Rama, revealed his origin to that Prince born of Dasaratha, the foremost of kings, and the reason why he was practicing penance. Hearing the words of Rama of imperishable exploits, that ascetic, his head still hanging downwards, answered "0 Rama, I was born of a Shudra alliance and I am performing this rigorous penance in order to acquire the status of a God in this body. I am not telling a lie, 0 Rama, I wish to attain the Celestial Region. Know that I am a Shudra and my name is Shambuka." As he was yet speaking, Raghava, drawing his brilliant and stainless sword from its scabbard, cut off his head. The Shudra being slain, all the Gods and their leaders with Agni's followers, cried out, “Well done! Well done!" overwhelming Rama with praise, and a rain of celestial flowers of divine fragrance fell on all sides, scattered by Vayu. In their supreme satisfaction, the Gods said to that hero, Rama “Thou hast protected the interests of the Gods, 0 Highly Intelligent Prince, now ask a boon, 0 Beloved Offspring of Raghu, Destroyer of Thy Foes. By thy grace, this Shudra will not be able to attain heaven!"
[English translation of chapter 73–76 from The Ramayana of Valmiki: Translated by Hari Prasad Shastri. ]
An analytic view of Shambuk tale from Ramayana
Do Vedas support an inferior status towards Shudras?
Is it possible to kill someone by Prayers?
Did Lord Rama follow caste system ?
Stand of Vedas on Shudra
Vedas nowhere support any discrimination or inferior status towards Shudras.
Yajurveda 30/5 says one who is hard working, brave, accomplishes difficult tasks is a Shudra.
Yajurveda 16/27 says Shudra/Nishad involved in architecture & craft work must be respected and regarded.
Atharveda 19/62/1 says I pray to God that O God! Let all Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras glorify me.
Yajurveda 18/46 says that O God make me so gentle that all Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras have affection for me.
Rigveda 5/60/5 says There is no one superior or inferior in the Vedas. All are equal just like brothers. All should help each other to attain the pleasures of this as well as the other world.
These are few examples from the Vedas which clearly says that Vedas grant equal status as well as respect to the Shudras. Thus, the Shambuk episode from Ramayana is not in accordance with the teachings of the Vedas.So, its a myth.
Even we get multiple examples from different texts like Ramayana and Upanishads where Shudras progressed to higher Varna through their efforts.
Satyakama Jabali in Chandogya Upanishad became a Rishi due to his qualities.
Is it possible to Kill someone by Prayer?
This is again a very absurd thought that anyone can be killed by prayers. If this is possible then why did not Rama kill Ravana by praying? Why he built a bridge over the ocean? He could have simply killed Ravana by prayers. Why did warrior need to train with weapons? Why did King need to keep large cumbersome forces with high expenses ?
There is no answer to these doubts. So, its a mere nonsense talk which no wise person will believe.
Lord Rama relation with Shudras in Ramayana
There are many examples from Ramayana which prove that Lord Rama enjoyed a healthy relationship with different members of Shudra community.
In Bal Kanda ( 1/37-40 ) of Ramayana Lord Rama enjoyed hospitality of Nishad King Guha and even accepted the food served by him.
In Arayanak Kand (74/7) of Ramayana Lord Rama accepted the half eaten berries from Shabri. Shabri belonged to Bhil/Tribal community.
The testimony of Narada Muni in Bal Kanda 1/16 of Ramayana that Lord Rama is noble, unbiased and affectionate towards everyone.
Moreover searching of Shambuka by Rama with help of Pushpak Viman is again a self contradiction. Its written clearly in Ramayana that Lord Rama returned Pushpak Viman to its original owner Kuber after returning to Ayodhaya. So, this again supports our theory of interpolation in Ramayana.
These examples prove that Lord Rama was a humble, kindhearted person. The episode of Sambuka described in 73 - 76 Sargas of Uttara Kanda clearly contradicts the true image of Lord Rama.
Than what is the truth?
Truth is that in the Vedic age there was no caste system. Only Varna system was in practice. In the middle ages caste system came into practice. Few ignorant priests interpolated the Texts like Ramayana and Manu smriti with verses supporting caste system. These interpolations were done with vested interests.
Neither Vedas support caste system, neither a prayer can kill anyone nor Ramayana supports Caste system.
The main culprit behind the Shambuk episode are interpolations.
Blaming Lord Rama for Shambuk killing is inappropriate and immoral accuse.
You can read this article in Hindi at this link.
शम्बूक वध का सत्य