Surpanakha’s lust for Rama


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

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

Read Post 1 here.

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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.

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surpanakha

One version of the story has it that Surpanakha was married to an asura called Dusthabuddhi who enjoyed great favor with Ravana. However, when he started scheming for more power than he presently had, he was executed at the behest of Ravana which led to Surpanakha being extremely displeased with her brother.

The widowed Surpanakha spent most of her time between southern India and Lanka visiting her other asura relatives. During one such visit, she happened to come across Rama and was immediately smitten by his looks. After all, Rama was the embodiment of manly virtues such as broad shoulders, a lean frame, a dusky complexion and also displayed all the requisite traits that any devoted husband should, which Surpanakha observed by spying on Rama, Sita and Lakshmana when they were in exile in the forest.

As the days went by Surpanakha’s obsession with Rama turned into an uncontrollable lust for him and this manifested itself in the form of her approaching Rama and proposing marriage to him despite knowing the fact that he was already happily married. When Rama spurned her advances, she approached Lakshmana with the same offer.

Given the fact that she had observed Lakshmana along  with Rama all these days, her reasoning was that he was second best only to Rama and that if Rama did not agree to be her husband, then Lakshmana would have to do. This was a grotesque and unnatural manifestation of her lust for a human husband with all the good virtues that a husband should have.

Lakshmana however, was not as kind as Rama in rejecting Surpanakha. While rejecting her, he even went ahead and told her that she did not have any of the qualities that he desired for in a wife, and even went so far to say that no sane man would want a wife such as her. This enraged Surpanakha who came to the conclusion that both the brothers were making fun of her.

Provoked by this, she tried to attack Sita which enraged Lakshmana who cut off her nose and sent her running away.

Her first reaction was to approach her brother Khara and request him to extract revenge from Rama and Lakshmana for the insults they meted out to her by rejecting her and disfiguring her. When Khara and his 14,000 strong Asura army were decimated by the brothers, she then went to Ravana and extolled about the beauty and virtues of Sita and how she would make an ideal wife for Ravana.

Ravana succumbed to Surpanakha’s description of Sita and put into motion a chain of events which finally culminated with his death at the hands of Rama.

Thus, the one sin of lust committed by Surpanakha ended up with the mighty Ravana setting off on the path of sure destruction.

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Image courtesy: Google Image search

47 thoughts on “Surpanakha’s lust for Rama

  1. Thanks for yet another interesting tale. I’m really learning few new things…like I didn’t know about the brother Khara…nor the husband Dhusthbuddhi.

    Great…keep them coming!

    • @thewhitescape, while the Jallianwala Bagh incident had me adding some fiction to it, this post is just me narrating one version of events of the Ramayana 🙂 thanks for the kind words, read the rest of the series to enjoy all the posts 🙂

    • @Suzy, no, I haven’t seen the Zee TV Ramayana series 😦 Maybe it would’ve helped me tell the tale a little better 🙂

  2. Another one for tonight. Thanks! 🙂
    My daughters did enjoy the story of Kumbhakarna. 🙂
    I was under the impression that Surpanakha went and told Ravana about how Lakshmana insulted her and cut off her nose and that infuriated Ravana. I think that is what Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan showed us. I believe I’ll have to go through Valmiki Ramayana to ascertain the truth. 🙂

    • @Rekha, as I have mentioned in my disclaimer at the beginning of the post, this story is just one version of the epic. And therefore, the version of events as you have stated is also probably correct as well 🙂

      And when you say that you want to ascertain the ‘truth’ per se, there is no truth, the Ramayana is an epic with various versions and there probably is no one ‘truth’ when it comes to the story itself 🙂

      • Sigh! I am deprived of having fun at the cost of Shurpanakha. 😛

        Our kids will never be deprived of stories till they grow old. 😀

      • @Rekha, as long as parents know stories from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Jataka Tales, the Panchatantra, our kids will never be deprived of stories even when they become grandparents 🙂

  3. I too didn’t know about Dushtabudhi and Khara… But the disfiguring of Shurpanakha by Lakshamana is one the few things in Ramayana that I feel sends bad message to the society !

    • Another way of looking at it, is that it works as a contrasting techniques between Ram and Lakshman. The younger brother is the next best thing, but he is not Ram, he has his human faults. Throughout the story, you would see such incidents, where the faults of Lakshman are exposed to accentuate the virtues of Ram.

      • @Ayush, that is quite an interesting take on the Ramayana, hadn’t quite seen it that way all these days….

    • @the little princess, thanks for the kind words 🙂 yes, our epics are an endless source of wisdom and knowledge for sure

    • @Rickie, well, given that most of us have only seen BR Chopra’s 1990s version on TV, am sure this post was way better than that 😀

  4. Surpanakha, Manthara.. we seem to have quite a bunch of strong headed women out there and yet we do not recognize the power within a female 😉 Do I make sense?

    • @Bhavya, oh yes, all our mythological stories have extremely powerful women characters, it is just that when they get translated into TV serials and movies, these characters are watered down quite a bit and end up looking like caricatures of the original characters in the epics

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