Maharṣi Vālmīki's sense of humour - part 8


Ayomukhī is another Śūrpaṇakhā when it comes to her conduct. While her story is a minor one, it makes one aware of how many such shameless rākṣasa women were residing in the Daṇḍaka.  Śrī-rāma who is bearing the unbearable situation of devī Sītā’s kidnapping is in search of her. Lakṣmaṇa is also disturbed seeing his ever equanimous brother in extreme sorrow. Both have crossed the Krauñcāraṇya and are heading towards the south. There they saw a crooked faced rākṣasī. Thick skinned, ugly; pot bellied; ate any animal which she could lay her hands upon in a disgusting manner. Her hair was unbraided. She was Ayomukhī! This time it was Lakṣmaṇa who would be the victim. He was in the front of Śrī-rāma and he was the one whom her eyes saw first. She ran to him and embraced him! “Come let’s make love!” she said. “My beloved! You are lucky to have me!” she said. “Lord! You can spend the rest of your life with me in these mountains, on the banks of the rivers!” Lakṣmaṇa was enraged beyond limits. He swiftly drew his sword and chopped off her ears and nose at once! “What an unabashed species these rākṣasīs are!” he might have thought. Ayomukhī suffered the same fate that Śūrpaṇakhā had. Lakṣmaṇa went a step further and chopped her breasts off. She ran away screaming! (Araṇyakāṇḍa 69.18)


Mantharā portrayal nurtures humour. She had come along with Kaikeyī from her ancestral house when Kaikeyī married Daśaratha and lived with her since then. Since she had looked after Kaikeyī since her childhood she had intimacy with her. She was old and a hunchback. She was widely known as ‘the hunchback woman’ in the royal palace. Maharṣi Vālmīki introduces her in his idiomatic best

ज्ञातिदासी यतोजाता कैकेय्यास्तु सहोषिता ॥

Ayodhyākāṇḍa 7.1

[...born attendant, who was born in some unknown place, always staying with Kaikeyī]

He uses ‘yatojātā’ which means ‘born somewhere’. None knew her lineage and house! An attendant, always staying with Kaikeyī!

As soon as she learnt the news of Śrī-rāma being declared as the heir-apparent, her envy knew no bounds. She wasted no time and went to Kaikeyī. She was as agitated as someone whose house is on fire! She chided Kaikeyī who was asleep, “उत्तिष्ठ मूढे किं शेषे भयं त्वामभिवर्तते (Get up you fool! Fear has surrounded you!)” She used all her guile to spoil Kaikeyī’s mind which was noble until then. She reminded her of the two boons promised by Daśaratha and also tutored her what to ask. Kaikeyī was happy to be ‘awakened’ by Mantharā’s foresight. She was delighted to hear the plans. See how she praises her in delight!

कुब्जे त्वां नाभिजानामि श्रेष्ठां श्रेष्ठभिधायिनीम् ।
पृथिव्यामसि कुब्जानामुत्तमा बुद्धिनिर्णये ॥

त्वमेव तु ममार्थेषु नित्ययुक्ता हितैषिणी ।
नाहं समवबुद्ध्येयं कुब्जे राज्ञश्चिकीर्षितम् ॥

सन्ति दुःसंस्थिताः कुब्जा वक्राः परमदारुणाः ।
त्वं पद्ममिव वातेन सन्नता प्रियदर्शना  ॥

उरस्तेऽभिनिविष्टं वै यावत् स्कन्धात्समुन्नतम्  ।
अधस्ताच्चोदरं शातं सुनाभमिव लज्जितम्  ॥

परिपूर्णं तु जघनं सुपीनौ च पयोधरौ  ।
विमलेन्दुसमं वक्त्रमहो राजसि मन्थरे  ॥

जघनं तव निर्घुष्टं रशनादामशोभितम् ।
जङघे भृशमुपन्यस्ते पादौ चाप्यायतावुभौ ॥

त्वमायताभ्यां सक्थिभ्यां मन्थरे क्षौमवासिनी ।
अग्रतो मम गच्छन्ती राजहंसेव भाससे॥

आसन्याः शम्बरे मायाः सहस्रमसुराधिपे ।
सर्वास्त्वयि निविष्टास्ता भूयश्चान्याः सहस्रशः ॥

तवेदं स्थगु यद्दीर्घं रथघोणमिवायतम् ।
मतयः क्षत्रविद्याश्च मायाश्चात्र वसन्ति ते ॥

अत्रते प्रतिमोक्ष्यामि मालां कुब्जे हिरण्मयीम् ।
अभिषिक्ते च भरते राघवे च वनं गते ॥

जात्येन च सुवर्णेन सुविष्टप्तेन मन्थरे ।
लब्धार्था च प्रतीता च लेपयिष्यामि ते स्थगु ॥

मुखे च तिलकं चित्रं जातरूपमयं शुभम् ।
कारयिष्यामि ते कुब्जे शुभान्यभरणानि च ॥

परिधाय शुभे वस्त्रे देवतेव चरिष्यसि ।
चंद्रमाह्वयमानेन मुखेनाप्रतिमानना ॥

गमिष्यसि गतिं मुख्यांगर्वयन्ती द्विषज्जने ।
तवापि कुब्जायाः सर्वाभरणभूषिताः ॥

पादौ परिचरिष्यन्ति यथैव त्वं सदा मम ॥

Ayodhyākāṇḍa 9.38-51

[“O Mantharā! I never knew you were so brilliant and can speak like this! You are the most brilliant among all the hunchbacks in this world! There are so many in this palace itself. But they are all useless. You are the only one who is capable! You look like a lotus creeper bent by the wind! Your chest is forward due to just pride! The waist which is adorned with a beautiful navel is emaciated as it is ashamed of your lofty chest! Your face is as refreshing as the moon! You look so beautiful Mantharā! Your hips look aptly adorned with the golden strings of the girdle! The knees and feet seem mesmerizing! Broad thighs aptly matched with the white silk! You look like a royal swan! You seem to possess all the magical powers which the asura Śambara had. Nay you possess far greater powers than him. This acumen, this tact, this polity - where was this all along? All these might have been dormant in the hunch on your back. I’ll get a golden chain made for your hunch once my son Bharata is crowned! Will cover your hump with gold! I’ll also get golden embroidered tilaka for your face, and many more ornaments! I’ll give you costly sarees too. You can roam around like an apsaras! Your face which resembles the moon has no match! All these other hunchbacks can become your attendants!”]

She appears only once after this.  Śrī-rāma is banished. Bharata is back and has completed all the rituals related to the death of Daśaratha. Bharata is discussing the preparations to bring back Śrī-rāma from the forest with Śatrughna. Mantharā adorned with all the golden ornaments appear!

“She appeared adorned with all the ornaments from the eastern entrance. She had anointed herself with sandalwood paste and was wearing a silk saree befitting royalty. She had decorated herself with a variety of ornaments in a weird way. Her makeup was abnormal. An exquisite girdle adorned her waist!” (Ayodhyākāṇḍa 78.5-6)

All the ornamentation would add to the charm of someone who is already beautiful. If the person is ugly, any makeup or ornamentation would be caricaturish. The old ugly hunchback woman Mantharā was, imagine how she would look wearing silk and ornaments, with all the makeup. Maharṣi Vālmīki has found the most appropriate simile to describe it. ‘रज्जुबद्धेव वानरी’ (A female monkey tied by a rope!). Won’t the monkeys in shows and circuses be decorated and tied with ropes to control them?

This is the eighth 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



Mahamahopadhyaya Vidwan Ranganatha Sharma was a renowned Sanskrit scholar and an authority on Vyakarana or Grammar. He is noted for his translation of the entire Valmiki Ramayana into Kannada, which was published with a foreword by DVG. He has authored several books in Kannada and Sanskrit. He is a recipient of the national award for Sanskrit learning and has received the Rajyotsava Award.  



Raghavendra G S is a keen student of classical literature in Sanskrit and Kannada. He is one of the contributing editors of Prekshaa.

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इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।


अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

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Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...


ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...


“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...