Maharṣi Vālmīki's sense of humour - part 9

Good luck to Bharata

Bharata has started his journey towards Citrakūṭa along with his army. His aim is to bring Śrī-rāma back. On the way they see the maharṣi Bharadvāja. Bharadvāja is moved by the brotherly love Bharata has for Śrī-rāma and he arranges a grand feast. With the prowess of his tapas he creates opulence unimaginable even in svarga and treats the whole army. The soldiers have a merry time, eating, drinking and enjoying everything. Their enjoyment and their behaviour has been portrayed by maharṣi Vālmīki in this manner: the soldiers enjoyed the feast in myriad ways. They drenched themselves in fragrance. They had a good time with the apsaras. They became reluctant to continue their journey to Citrakūṭa.

नैवायोध्यां गमिष्यामो गमिष्यमो न दण्डकान् ।
कुशलं भरतस्यास्तु रामायास्तु तथा सुखम् ॥

Ayodhyākāṇḍa 91.59

[We shall neither go to Ayodhyā nor to Daṇḍaka, we wish nothing but good luck to Bharata, same to Śrī-rāma too!] 

“This is indeed svarga!” they exclaimed! They wore a variety of garlands! They danced in groups! They laughed! They sang! They ran here, there, everywhere! They had all the fun possible on that night. The night passed. There remained neither the apsaras nor the feast! They all just followed Bharata!

The world of vānaras

In Śrīmad-rāmāyaṇam, both the world of vānaras and the rākṣasas become the props for humour. The antics of the vānaras, and the ugliness of the rākṣasas provide favourable conditions for humour to sprout. The vānaras in Śrīmad-rāmāyaṇam are of two types, the divine vānaras and the earthly vānaras. The deities took the form of vānaras, didn't they? They have human tendencies, they talk, think, and act like humans. But sometimes they give away their simian nature. Then there are the earthly ones in the forest. maharṣi Vālmīki calls them the prākṛta vānaras (Yuddhakāṇḍa 74.80)

The antics of vānaras like Hanumān and others have been ridiculed as monkey business. When Sugrīva first notices Śrī-rāma and Lakṣmaṇa he is frightened. He thinks they might be some mercenaries sent by his brother Vālin to punish him. Hanumān consoles him saying,

अहो शाखामृगत्वं ते व्यक्तमेव प्लवङ्गम ॥

Kiṣkindhakāṇḍa 2.17

[Behold! You are showing your true nature now (of a monkey)]

Liquor induced intoxication

Even after the retreat of the rains, Sugrīva didn’t do as he promised regarding the search for devī Sītā and Śrī-rāma was agitated. An enraged Lakṣmaṇa, on his orders, entered Kiṣkindha and drew the bow-string resulting in a reverberating twang. Sugrīva sent his wife Tārā to pacify him. He thought it was apt to send the woman to do the firefighting instead of doing it himself. Sugrīva was intoxicated. So was Tārā! (Kiṣkindhakāṇḍa 33.38)

“Her eyeballs were rolling all over the place, intoxicated. The girdle and the necklace had loosened. She stumbled and tottered when she came to Lakṣmaṇa.”

One need to observe her speech in her intoxicated state: “O Lakṣmaṇa, I know what is the reason for Śrī-rāma’s wrath. I also know that his important work is getting delayed. I also know what our duties are currently. I also know whom Sugrīva is interested in currently…” (Kiṣkindhakāṇḍa 33.53-54) then she said, “Lakṣmaṇa! You don’t know the ways of love.” If Lakṣmaṇa was so interested in the intricacies of love, would he have come to the forest alone! Would he have punished Śūrpaṇakhā and Ayomukhī! Lakṣmaṇa was indeed pacified by the web of words woven by Tārā. As per her request he agrees to meet Sugrīva. He enters the palace and what does he see? Sugrīva is sitting there embracing Rumā!

Lakṣmaṇa never imagined he would see such a sight. Even Sugrīva didn’t think that Lakṣmaṇa would ever come to the palace. Both saw each other and stood petrified and wide-eyed.

ददर्श सौमित्रिमदीनसत्त्वं विशालनेत्रः सुविशालनेत्रम् ॥

Kiṣkindhakāṇḍa 33.66

Hanumān the ‘vānara

Monkey business always evokes humour. Maharṣi Vālmīki has shown Hanumān’s behaviour in that light. When he was searching for devī Sītā in the royal palace of Rāvaṇa, he notices Mandodarī. He thought about it and came to the conclusion that she might be devī Sītā. तर्कयामास सीतेति रूपयौवनसम्पदा. How can one describe his joy!

आस्फोटयामास चुचुम्ब पुच्छं ननन्द चक्रीड जगौ जगम ।
स्तम्भानरोहान्निपपात भूमौ निदर्शयन् स्वां प्रकृतिं कपीनाम् ॥

Sundarakāṇḍa 10.54

[in joy he smashed his tail to the ground! He kissed it! In joy he played, sang and ran around! He climbed the pillars and descended back! He showed his true nature i.e. what it means to be a monkey!]

The poet has indeed observed carefully how overjoyed monkeys behave. चुचुम्ब पुच्छम् makes it amply clear.

Later Hanumān does the impossible and comes back after incinerating Laṅkā. The army of vānaras were waiting impatiently on the banks of the ocean. From afar he moves his tail vigorously and lets out a roar. All the vānaras hear the roar and are delighted. “Oh! Hanumān is returning!” They hold branches having flowers, wave them and welcome him! He finally arrives. He lands on the mountain. All the vānaras enthusiastically run towards him and swarm him. They bring fruits as gifts to him. When he summarises his achievement, saying, “I saw devī Sītā.” their joy knows no bounds.

“Some jumped in joy! Some screeched! Some roared! Some made laughing noises! Some roared in response! Some smashed their long tails on earth!”

Some monkeys descended from the mountains and repeatedly touched him in joy!

क्ष्वेलन्त्यन्ये नदन्त्यन्ये गर्जन्त्यन्ये महाबलाः।
चक्रुः किलकिलामन्ये प्रतिगर्जन्ति चापरे॥

केचिदुच्छ्रितलाङ्गूलाः प्रहृष्टाः कपिकुञ्जराः।
अञ्चितायतदीर्घाणि लाङ्गूलानि प्रविव्यधुः॥

अपरे च हनूमन्तं वानरा वारणोपमम्।
आप्लुत्य गिरिशृङ्गेभ्यः संस्पृशन्ति स्म हर्षिताः॥

Sundarakāṇḍa 57.41-43


This is the ninth 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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