Mareecha in Valmiki and Adhyatma Ramayana
In his Ramayana, Valmiki is concerned with social life. He desires to portray ideal and real characters. Literature is a mirror to life. His aim is to show the world the good and the bad. He describes how great personalities live and face challenges and also reveals how bad characters harm the innocent and the weak. He hopes ‘As long as mountains and rivers are there on the earth, the Ramayana lives to that time’ (Bala Kanda, Sarga 2, Slokas 36,37, p16).
In obeying words of a father, sacrificing everything for virtue, in acting as an ideal brother and husband, Rama depicted as an ideal man. All characters in Valmiki Ramayana respect the mankind and they are immortal.
In course of time the story told by Valmiki got changed in the hands of subsequent poets. Adhyatma Ramayana is the outcome of the trends of the society. Rama attained the position of Paramatma with self-knowledge and the work swayed the hearts of all. Valmiki made Ramayana immortal. Adhyatma Ramayana adored the ‘Paramatma Tatva’ of Rama. Valmiki described the bad and the good. By birth everybody seems equal. But by the deeds of an individual we recognise him as human or as ‘Rakshasa’. Cruel nature is natural to Rakshasas. But the over-whelming Bhakti tatva in Adhyatma Ramayana made Mareecha a Rama Bhakta. Commentators tried to find the clues even in Valmiki Ramayana itself. It is common that some poets or critics try to attribute some kind of critical meaning to suit their argument. The popular ‘Bhagavadgeeta’, no wonder, gets, different commentaries in the hands of eminent personalities.
Did not Rama intend to kill Mareecha?
According to Adhyatma Ramayana, the arrow of Rama threw Mareecha into the Ocean (Bala Kanda, Sarga 5, Sloka 7, p37).
In Valmiki Ramayana ‘By that highly excellent Manavastra, Mareecha was flung in Ocean, a distance of hundred yojana’s’ (Bala Kanda, Sarga 30, Sloka 17, p106).
Most Ramayanas narrate this episode, in that manner. But commentators made much fuss. They say that Rama did not desire to kill Mareecha.
To go back, Viswamitra requested Dasaratha to send his son to kill Mareecha and Subhahu. All Ramayanas agree to this point. Regarding Mareecha, Adhyatma Ramayana speaks less about this. But Valmiki writes vividly. Mareecha escapes from the arrow of Rama. Then Rama says ‘See Lakshmana! My arrow has not deprived him of his life. These Rakshasas are wicked, sinful, cruel and live on human blood and flesh’ (Bala Kanda, Sarga 30, Sloka 19, 20p). So, the intention of Rama is to kill Mareecha.
In Aranya Kanda, Mareecha talks about the power of the arrow of Rama. ‘Rama discharged a sharp arrow capable of destroying the enemy’ (Aranya Kanda, Sarga 38, Sloka 19, p120).
While slaying Tataki, Rama used a Sastra. Arrows may be divided as Sastras and Astras. A Sastra can only be used once. An Astra can be used again and again. If one uses the Astra, it does its work and comes back to the user. By chanting the prescribed Mantra one has to purify the Astra. There are grades to the Astras. Astras should be used according to the might of the enemy. BrahmAstra should not be used on enemies with little strength. As Tataki died of an Astra, Rama thought that he could kill Mareecha by using ManavAstra. This miscalculation saved Mareecha from death. When he failed in his attempt, Rama used AagneyAstra to kill the rest of the Rakshasas. So it will be pure imagination to say that Rama did not intend to kill Mareecha.
There is one more point to reckon. Ravana approached Mareecha seeking his help to kidnap Sita. Mareecha after some discussion says, ‘soon after killing me, Rama will kill you also. But as I get the death in the hands of an enemy my aim shall be fulfilled’. (Aranya Kanda, Sarga 42, Sloka 17, p129). Here the actual words used by Valmiki are ‘Arina’ and ‘Kruta Krutyosmi’. But subsequent poets and commentators bring out the meaning unsuitable to the context. Adhyatma Ramayana says ‘If I die in the hands of Rama, I shall be relieved from the Ocean of rebirth. If Ravana kills me I shall go to hell’ (Aranya Kanda, Sarga 6, Sloka 36, p145).
Valmiki desires to present to the world a permanent and ideal Kavya with a divine suggestion. Later on Vidyanatha in his poetic work determines that ‘a Kavya without the history of a great person may be denounced’.
Among all Ramayanas Adhyatma Ramayana has a supreme place. It has its base from Upanishads and puranas, especially the Bhagavata purana. This Ramayana preaches Bhakti and Jnana Margas and adored the paramatma tatva of Rama and occupied the first place among Ramayanas. Adhyatma Ramayana says that Mareecha, after saving himself from Rama, changed his mind, became a sage and worshipped Rama. Mareecha while talking to Ravana says ‘I am averse to worldly pleasures and always in meditation of Rama (Aranya Kanda, Sarga 6, Sloka 22, p143). He also says ‘Get rid of enmity towards Rama, pray him, he is very kind and benevolent. I heard from the sages here, that Rama is none other than paramatma’ (Aranya Kanda, Sarga , Sloka 26, p144). Adhyatma Ramayana made Mareecha a great worshipper of Rama. Rama killed Mareecha. Then ‘Light from the body of Mareecha entered Rama. The whole world has seen it and all gods felt astonished’. (Aranya Kanda, Sarga 7, Sloka 20, p147).
Both Ramayanas described Mareecha as cruel, an enemy to the good and the sages who undoes sacrifices, and lives only on humans blood and flesh. All these are his in born qualities. Valmiki described his life style in Dandakaranya. ‘Quaffing the blood of sages practicing virtue in Dandaka and eating their flesh, I roamed at will’ (Aranya Kanda, Sarga 39, Sloka 5, p123). This is Mareecha in Dandakaranya. Like a beaten cobra his heart was filled with fire to take revenge upon Rama. ‘Having heard the news from the sages that Rama has come to Dandaka, recalling my past enmity I rushed towards him in the form of a sharp horned deer to kill him (Aranya Kanda, Sarga 39, Sloka 9, p123).
However, a sloka in Valmiki Ramayana Mareecha says to Ravana ‘Having somehow got back my life, I am practicing ascetics (Aranya Kanda, Sarga 39, Sloka 13, 14, p123). This sloka in Valmiki Ramayana was misinterpreted by commentators. To speak the truth, one cannot say that Rakshasas never performed Tapas. All mighty Rakshasas were those who performed Tapas and got boons from Brahma etc. Mareecha might have practiced Tapas. But that was not worshipping of Rama. Mareecha was never a Rama Bhakta according to Valmiki. However, Adhyatma Ramayana says that Mareecha was a Rama Bhakta and when he was slain by Rama, the atma from the body of Mareecha entered into Rama.
But the pity is, ‘Perceiving what was opportune, Mareecha uttered a cry precisely resembling the voice of Rama saying Sita! Lakshmana!’ (Aranya Kanda, Sarga 44, Sloka 19, p139). Mareecha was crueler than Subhahu, Tataki, Khara etc. towards Rama. But reading between lines is possible only in the case of Mareecha. So some poets and commentators utilised the opportunity to picturise him as Rama Bhakta. Mareecha, even in the last minute, did the utmost possible harm to Rama.
There is a gradual evolution in the character of Mareecha. He is an enemy to Rama from the beginning to the end. Adhyatma Ramayana starts Mareecha’s character and ends as in Valmiki Ramayana. Adhyatma Ramayana changes its course and says that Mareecha is a Rama Bhakta. After Valmiki, Rama was described as Paramatma. He has become ‘Patita Pavana’. He purified and blessed the sinner Ahalya. Likewise, Rama bestowed salvation on Mareecha. The aim of Adhyatma Ramayana is to praise Rama as being benevolent even to the greatest sinner, If he turns to Rama worship.
The author says ‘Its birthplace is Kailasa, the abode of Siva. It unites with the Ocean that is Rama. The Ganges of Adhyatma Ramayana purifies the three worlds’ (Bala Kanda, Sarga 1, Sloka 5, p). The influence of Adhyatma Ramayana is so great that even while commenting Valmiki Ramayana scholars only picturise Mareecha according to Adhya Ramayana episode. As far as India is concerned, the contributions of Adhyatma Ramayana are invaluable. But in the world’s literature Valmiki Ramayana has a unique place. ‘Be a Rama not as one Ravana’ is Valmiki’s divine suggestion. This virtue goes in-vain if the heart of the Valmiki is forgotten.
‘To protect the good and to slay the evil to establish the virtue I am born again and again’ (Geeta, 4th Canto, Sloka 8).
Society should be afraid of committing a sin and should be aware that good shall be awarded.