Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Unsung Hero: The arrow that kills the mighty Rāvaṇa

Ramlila tonight will re-enact the destruction of a mighty warrior, Rāvaa who the Rāmāyaṇa itself calls, in his dying moment, dyutimaḥ (effulgent, brilliant) and one of terrific swiftness (भीमवेगः). The Hindu epics are generous in recognising valour even in the enemy -  a mature sentiment which makes our religion what it is. 

Dussehra focuses on the glorification of Rāma and celebrates the triumph of 'good' over 'evil', 'light' over 'darkness'. I like to draw attention to the unsung hero in these stories. In this case, the arrow itself that accomplishes the deed. In the heat of battle, nearly 10 verses are devoted to describing the 'astra' made by Brahma. We'll do one verse DVP style - but I'd like to share some of the description in translation. This can be found in sarga 108 of the Yuddha Kāṇḍa.

Being reminded by Mātalī, Rāma took hold of the blazing/flaming arrow (दीप्तः शरः) which was breathing as if like a serpent. In its wings is [the] wind, in its head there is Fire and the Sun, in its body is the sky and in its weight are (mount) Meru and Mandara. Resplendent by its own lustre, bright as the rays of the Sun, it is like the fire of dissolution (कालाग्निः). Made by Brahma for Indra, smeared in the blood and dipped in the  marrow of various victims, it presented a dreadful appearance. With the essence of a thunderbolt, hissing like a serpent, it has the form of death (yamarupa). 

Consecrating it with mantras laid down in the Vedas, the mighty Rāma set it on his bow. That excellent arrow being mounted, all beings were stricken with fear and the earth trembled. Rāma, well-enraged, discharged that arrow which pierces the vitals (मर्मविदारणः शरः) at Rāvaa. That shaft cleft the breast of the evil minded Rāvaa, and anointed with blood, penetrated the earth. And then returned to the quiver. (In some rescensions, it does, and others it doesn't).

Now the verse. A relatively simple one today!!

यं तस्मै प्रथमं प्रादादगस्त्यो भगवानृषिः |

ब्रह्मदत्तं महद्बाममोघं युधि वीर्यवान् ||

[The arrow] which was unfailing in battle was first (earlier?) given to valiant Rama by the divine rishi Agastya.

यम् which - (yat, accusative, masc., sing)
युधि - in battle (yuddha, locative, neut. sing)
अमोघम् - unfailing (adj, accusative, masc., sing) 
बाणम् - arrow (accusative, masc., sing)
प्रथमम् - at first, firstly
तस्मै  - to him, to Rama (dative, masc., sing)
वीर्यवान् - Brave, valiant (Rama)
प्रादात् - pra+adaat, past tense of 
अगस्त्यः Agastya 
भगवानृषिः Divine ṛṣi

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