Friday, September 17, 2010

PDE Ramayana: Vali's Death

Reading Guide. In one of the most controversial scenes in the epic, Rama helps Sugriva, but not openly: he hides in an ambush where Vali cannot see him. The fact that Rama killed Vali in such an apparently dishonorable way has provoked much discussion, with different storytellers and commentators finding ingenious ways in which to justify Rama's actions. There is a nice discussion of this in Stuart Blackburn's Inside the Drama House, which you can read online here: Rama's Confession.

Image: The illustration below is the bottom half of a painting that combines two scenes; at the top of the full-size painting you can see the scene where Sugriva and Rama first meet and make an alliance.

Source. Ramayana, The Epic of Rama, Prince of India, condensed into English verse by Romesh Dutt (1899). [300 words]

Sugriva and Vali | 44. Vali's Death | King Sugriva

Closed the chiefs in fatal combat, each resistless in his pride,
And like running rills from mountains poured their limbs the purple tide

Till Sugriva, quick uprooting  Shal tree from the jungle wood,
As the dark cloud hurls the lightning, hurled it where his brother stood.

Staggering 'neath the blow terrific  Vali reeled and almost fell,
As a proud ship overladen  reels upon the ocean's swell!

But with fiercer rage and fury  Vali in his anguish rose,
And with mutual blows they battled — brothers and relentless foes,

Like the sun and moon in conflict  or like eagles in their fight,
Still they fought with cherished hatred  and an unforgotten spite,

Till with mightier force and fury  Vali did his younger quell,
Faint Sugriva fiercely struggling  'neath his brother's prowess fell!

Still the wrathful rivals wrestled  with their bleeding arms and knees,
With their nails like claws of tigers  and with riven rocks and trees,

And as Indra battles Vritra  in the tempest's pealing roar,
Blood-stained Vali, red Sugriva,  strove and struggled, fought and tore,

Till Sugriva faint and falt'ring  fell like Vritra from the sky,
To his comrade and his helper  turned his faint and pleading eye!

Ah! Those soft and pleading glances  smote the gentle Rama's heart;
On his bow of ample stature  Rama raised the fatal dart,

Like the fatal disc of Yama  was his proudly circled bow,
Like a snake of deadly poison  flew his arrow swift and low.

Winged dwellers of the forest  heard the twang with trembling fear;
Echoing woods gave back the accent, lightly fled the startled deer,

And as Indra's flag is lowered when the Ashwin winds prevail,
Lofty Vali pierced and bleeding  by that fatal arrow fell!

Sugriva and Vali | Vali's Death | King Sugriva

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