Kumbhakarna’s sloth

I am taking part in the Write Tribe Festival of Words – 1st to 7th September 2013.

This post is the first of a series of trying to correlate the Seven Sins to characters and incidents referred to in the Ramayana.

Read Post 2 here.


Please note that there are various versions of this great epic and therefore my post might contradict with what you have heard or read of this particular incident in the Ramayana. This is only an attempt to map the seven deadly sins to incidents or behavior of particular characters in the Ramayana in a given situation and I have taken liberties with my own interpretations of the same. No offense is meant to any version of this wonderful epic.



One version of the story has it that when Ravana, Vibhishana and Kumbhakarna were youngsters, they once prayed to Lord Brahma for his blessings. They were so sure that the Lord would be pleased with their penance and devotion that they had already decided what boon they were going to ask from him. Kumbhakarna was going to ask Lord Brahma for complete dominion over the heavens.

Indra, the King of the heavens knew about this wish and he therefore decided to intervene. He approached Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning, and requested her – “You have to help me, please make him make a mistake when he asks for his wish” to which Saraswati agreed.

Pleased by their penance, when the Lord appeared before them and granted them a wish each, Indra was aware that Kumbhakarna was going to wish for complete dominion over heaven. And due to Saraswati’s intervention instead of asking for “Indra asana” (Indra’s throne) he asked the Lord for “Nidra asana” (sleeping posture) which was immediately granted to him.

But Ravana immediately realized his brother’s mistake and requested the Lord to undo this boon as in reality it was a curse. Lord Brahma relented to Ravana’s entreaties and therefore modified the boon’s condition so that Kumbhakarna would sleep for six months at a time, be awake for one day and then go back to sleep for six months.

This boon by itself was not such a bad thing for Kumbhakarna, but its effects were felt by his brother Ravana during the pivotal war with Rama. Kumbhakarna was a rakshasa who was well renowned for his prowess in warfare as well as for his intelligence, bravery and complete loyalty to Ravana. During the war with Rama, when Ravana and his army were routed and humiliated by Rama and his armies, it was at this time that Kumbhakarna was sorely  missed by Ravana and his armies.

In fact, the effect of the humiliation was so demoralizing that Ravana had no other choice but to try and wake Kumbhakarna up before his six month sleep term was over. Given that this was Lord Brahma’s wish that they were undoing, the consequences of the same were never bound to be anything good, but Ravana had no choice. If he did not bring his best warrior on to the battlefield fighting by his armies’ side, Rama’s rag tag army of monkeys and bears would soon overcome his mighty forces. Simply the presence of Kumbhakarna would enthuse his armies so that they would get a second wind and fight Rama’s armies with more vigor.

Thus, the one sin of sloth ended up in Ravana having to go against the wishes of Lord Brahma, the consequences of which shall be discussed in another post detailing Kumbhakarna’s gluttony.


Image courtesy: Google Image search

52 thoughts on “Kumbhakarna’s sloth

  1. My knowledge of Ramayana is confined to the stories heard from my grandma, Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana and the Samshipt Ramayan that we studied in Grade 7. Though this story was heard sometime in history, the post made it afresh. I love reading epic stories all the more now, because my 2 brats need a story every night. Thanks for taking care of tonight’s story. 🙂

    • @Shilpa, to be very honest with you, even I wasn’t aware of this story, but the research for this post helped me learn this new piece of information 🙂

  2. The Ramayana is my favourite epic and Lord Ram my favourite epic hero. So I just love your theme. My theme is journeys and tomorrow’s post is on Ram Yatra 🙂

  3. I knew this story – being something of a myth aficionado – but, heck, should have thought of myths for this series 🙂 Now it is too late 🙂 Good re-telling and great idea to map it to the seven sins (I did all the seven sins together today 🙂 )

    • @Suresh, coming from you that is high praise indeed, am yet to read your post, will surely let you know my thoughts after I read the same

  4. My knowledge of Hindu mythology is pathetic at best so thanks for thinking of doing a series like this to enlighten me! As always…looking forward to your next posts…!

  5. Great theme…the seven sins!
    Thanks for sharing this story…I’ve heard and watched these tales growing up, it will be really interesting to read your interpretations!!

  6. Thanks for sharing such not-well-known trivia. I dont remember the Ramayana I read from school so I sat up and read Ramayana and Mahabharata once. Of course it was an abridged version and a lot of side stories were missing. Looking forward to reading the others 🙂

    • @Rickie, I vaguely knew about the back story, but during the research for this post, I figured out the entire back story myself 🙂 Will surely read your post and let you know my thoughts…

    • @Bhavya, regarding the comments, now they will get published, since the earlier comment was the first one I had to approve it, but all comments going forward will get published.

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