The punishment for a lustful woman
The pot bellied woman took Lakṣmaṇa’s words as the ultimate truth. Unaware of the humour she again goes back to Śrī-rāma. She is not oblivious to the beauty of devī Sītā. Later she is the one who would wax eloquently about her beauty in Rāvaṇa’s court. Here, intoxicated by lust, she deliberately insults her beauty. It's funny to note that she calls devī Sītā, old and ugly. Her conduct evokes disgust while also creating humour. Maharṣi Vālmīki has brought in subtle and situational humour here to entertain the connoisseurs. As per the orders of Śrī-rāma, Lakṣmaṇa cuts off her ears and nose. What a punishment meted to a lustful woman! As soon as he did that, she screamed in a screeching voice and ran into the forest. She also screamed in different ways (‘ननाद विविधान् नादान्’)! Holding her arms up, screaming loudly, she entered the dense forest!
Her interactions with Khara also evokes humour. The handsomeness of both Śrī-rāma and Lakṣmaṇa is deeply ingrained in her psyche. Even when complaining about them she can’t help but describe how handsome they are vividly.
तरुणौ रूपसम्पन्नौ सुकुमारौ महाबलौ॥
[…young, handsome, powerful, with eyes as wide as lotus…]
“With them there is also a young and beautiful woman.” she says. The ‘old and ugly’ suddenly transforms into ‘young and beautiful’! “She is the main cause of my travails now. They treated me as though I’m a prostitute without kin and disfigured me.” We see how the truth is tampered when it comes to such complaining people. Devī Sītā, who neither spoke nor acted, became the root cause! While Śūrpaṇakhā complains about being treated like a prostitute
इमामवस्थां यथाऽसती तथा ॥
She doesn’t think for once how she behaved.
Thinking that Śrī-rāma and Lakṣmaṇa are some commoners Khara sends his army comprising of fourteen thousand rākṣasas. Śūrpaṇakhā’s desire was to drink the foaming blood of Śrī-rāma, Lakṣmaṇa and devī Sītā! But the fourteen thousand rākṣasas were decimated. Again she went to Khara screaming. By then the ears and nose had stopped bleeding and she looked like a worn out sallakī (Olibanum tree).
Śūrpaṇakhā was adept in getting what she wanted. She knew that if Khara isn’t provoked enough he won’t go with his full strength and her desires would remain unfulfilled. She insulted him saying he is a coward. Then she slapped her pot belly with her hands and cried!
कराभ्यामुदरं हत्वा रुरोद भृशदुःखिता ॥
His army was indeed destroyed. Śūrpaṇakhā saw everything hiding, far from the battlefield. Drinking Śrī-rāma’s blood remained unfulfilled, yet again she was disappointed as Khara too died. Again she ran away screaming, this time to Laṅkā. She gatecrashed into Rāvaṇa’s court and exhibited her disfigured face. “O Rāvaṇa! You are immersed in enjoyment! You are behaving as per your whims and fancies. Janasthāna has slipped from your hands. Haven’t you been informed?” She described everything with generous extrapolation. She knew Rāvaṇa’s weakness; he was indeed lustful. Thus she described devī Sītā’s beauty in detail and provoked him. “Whomsoever Sītā would be the wife of, whomsoever she would embrace in love, his life is the most joyful!” “I desired to make her your wife but the wretched Lakṣmaṇa disfigured me!” She fed his desire with false information.
Śūrpaṇakhā knows that her behaviour towards Śrī-rāma is indeed shameful. She doesn’t inform about that to either Khara or Rāvaṇa! She created an alternate narrative to describe Lakṣmaṇa’s actions! In spite of that her actions were revealed eventually!
Great rākṣasa warriors like Kumbhakarṇa, Indrajit and many more lost their lives. There was no limit on the rākṣasa warriors who were killed in the battle. Most of the rākṣasa women who survived were all widows. They all ridiculed her for her behavior! “How could this pot bellied Śūrpaṇakhā approach Śrī-rāma who equalled Manmatha in looks! Was it appropriate for this old hag to behave like this! Why did she, with no good qualities whatsoever, lust for Śrī-rāma, who is the noblest and beaming with resplendence! Such ugly-faced woman had the gall to approach that handsome one! By our misfortune this woman did the unthinkable! Her skin is wrinkled! Her hair is grey! She conducted herself in such an ignoble fashion!” (Yuddhakāṇḍa 19.6-9)
The ugliness of the rākṣasas find elaborate descriptions with humour in aim, the rākṣasa women find special mention! Hanumān sees the rākṣasa women guarding devī Sītā in the Aśokavana. How were these rākṣasīs?
“Some had only one eye. Others a single ear. Some had wide ears. Some had no ears at all. Some had sharp ears. Some had a nose which faced upwards. One had a gargantuan head! One had a long neck! One was bald! One had hairs all over! One had a long forehead and ears. Some had a pot belly, hanging lips, hanging face, hanging legs! One was short, someone else was tall, yet another was hunch backed! One was ugly and stout! One was terrifying, yet another was crooked faced! One had blazing red eyes, while someone else had a disfigured face!”
“They were all dark, quick tempered and quarrelsome! Some had faces resembling pigs, deers, tigers, buffaloes, goats and foxes’ faces! Some had legs which resembled elephants, horses and camels’ legs! Some had their heads which were buried in their bodies! Some had only one hand, others had just one leg! Some had their ears resembling donkeys, horses, bulls, elephants, and lions’ ears! Women devoid of noses, noses which were long, short, crooked, curved, resembling elephants’ trunk, and residing on their forehead too were there! Some had hoofs like bulls! Some had their hair hanging till their feet. Some were big breasted! Some had huge eyes, long tongues, some had faces like cows, pigs! Some were redheaded! They were drinking liquor, eating meat and blood was spilled all over their bodies! (Sundarakāṇḍa 17.5-16)
Amidst such women devī Sītā looked like a divine flawless beauty! Her beauty was even more enhanced in contrast to such specimens who surrounded her!
This is the seventh part of the multi-part translation of the Kannada book "Valmiki Munigala Hasya Pravrtti" by Mahamahopadhyaya Vidwan Dr. N Ranganatha Sharma. Thanks to Dr. Sharada Chaitra for granting us permission to translate this wonderful work. The original in Kannada can be read here