Vali’s greed

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

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

Read Post 1 – Kumbhakarna’s sloth

Read Post 2 – Surpanakha’s lust for Rama


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.



Vali, the vanara was a good and pious king to all his subjects in Kishkinta. Right from a very young age, he had proven himself through his various valorous exploits.

On one occasion a demon called Mayavi had attacked Kishkinta and Vali was engaged in a bloody combat with him. The fight took them inside a cave at the entrance of which his younger brother Sugriva was asked to wait. When Vali killed Mayavi, the asura’s blood came flowing out of the cave. Sugriva mistaking the same to be his brother, Vali’s blood blocked the entrance of the cave with a huge boulder to trap the asura inside.

By the time Vali found an alternate route out of the cave and returned to Kishkinta, he saw that Sugriva had crowned himself king and was ruling the Vanaras. An enraged Vali then confronted Sugriva, who tried to explain the situation to him. However, Vali would not listen to him and banished him from the kingdom and as to add further insult to Sugriva, he also claimed Sugriva’s wife Ruma as his own, which resulted in the brothers becoming bitter enemies.

Sugriva then went to Rishyamukha, the only place where Vali would be unable to attack him and cause him any harm, as Vali could not lay foot in this place due to an earlier transgression with a holy man. Sugriva however nursed extremely vengeful feelings against his older brother for having claimed his wife and was waiting for the opportune moment to extract revenge.

Fate presented itself in the form of Rama who was searching for Sita and was on the lookout for allies to form an army against the mighty Asuran army of Ravana. On narrating his story to Rama and the injustice meted out by Vali, Rama agrees to side with Sugriva and fight with Vali to kill him as a retribution for usurping Ruma.

In the battle that ensued between Sugriva and Vali, Rama slayed Vali by deceit and fulfilled his promise to Sugriva. The justification that Rama gave for his act was that Vali had wronged by claiming Sugriva’s wife Ruma as his own and death was the most appropriate punishment for this greedy act of his.


Image courtesy: Google Image search

53 thoughts on “Vali’s greed

    • @Usha Menon, this probably is one of the greyest areas in the Ramayana, as Rama actually chose a side which probably was not completely correct in some ways…

  1. More than greed it was anger and a feeling of betrayal by Sugriva that made Vali take such measures. Yes, he was incorrect in claiming his wife…but was it greed? And yes, this is one of the few dark points in Ramayana….a question over Rama’s judgment.

    • @Aditi, the anger and the feeling of betrayal was what led Vali to banish Sugriva from the kingdom for good, but in my humble opinion it was greed that made him claim Sugriva’s wife as his. I might be wrong here though…

    • @Seriocomiker, thanks for the kind words :), yes stories from these epics have an enduring value in reading them again and again…one always learns something new everytime one reads them.

  2. Most of the wars in these epics re-ascertain a Malayalam saying:
    ‘Kanakam moolam kamini moolam kalaham palavidham ulakil sulabham’
    It translates to, ‘ You can find plenty of quarrels and enmity in this world because of gold (kanakam) and woman (kamini)’. That is so very true. 🙂

  3. I too think that it was Vali’s idea that it was Sugriv who was greedy. As for taking Sugriv’s wife, the Valmiki Ramayan actually portrays a different social set-up for the Vanaras and, in fact, Sugriv takes Vali’s wife Tara after the death of Vali. So, that concept of another’s wife was not supposed to be ingrained in them according to that version.

    • @Suresh, point well taken, having said that Sugriv taking Vali’s wife after she was widowed and Vali claiming Sugriv’s wife when he was alive and well are completely different things, aren’t they?

      In any case, this was just my interpretation of greed on the part of Vali, and I am not any kind of authority on the epic by any stretch of imagination 🙂

      • I said that about Tara only to say that sexual mores among the Vanaras were supposed to be different. It was not acceptable behavior in, say, Rama’s own people to marry a brother’s widow at that time. (Valimiki’s depiction of the Vanaras was as of a people only a shade above animals without the sort of ‘civilized’ behavior that was expected of humans. Witness again the return of Hanuman and company after successfully finding Sita. They enter a private orchard, beat up the guards and destroy it in the process of their revelry. So, this thing of taking Sugriva’s wife was probably not considered a heinous sin in their Society albeit Sugriv would have felt deprived.)

      • @Suresh, point taken, and this comment shows the amount of knowledge you have on Indian mythology. Maybe you should do a series of posts on that sometime soon.

      • Oh! I can get to be quite a bore on Indian myth – or myths in general – always been a myth buff and probably know more about Indian mythology including even the more obscure Puranas than most 🙂

      • @Suresh, tell you what, maybe you and me can together write a story based on Indian mythology, what say you???

  4. Much as I love the Ramayana and my Lord Rama, this is one story that did not make sense. But you’ve relayed it very well. btw I featured your Surpanakha post on my day 3 journey.

    • @Suzy, thank you so much :D, and yes, this is the greyest area of the Ramayana where Rama seemed to have picked a side for his own benefit rather than strictly following ‘dharma’ as a principle

  5. Very interesting for a Canadian like me to learn about these stories. It’s all very new and different and I don’t fully understand it all but it’s still fascinating.

    • @Cate, these stories are only snippets from the epic itself, but then yes, they do provide decent insight into the overall epic

  6. No matter how many times this story is told, it is still hard-hitting. I really enjoyed your narration!

    I am looking forward to tomorrow’s story. What a great theme idea!

  7. Just a correction, when Rama met Sugreev, he wasn’t looking for an army to fight Ravana, he was looking for help to look for Sita. But then you do say, this is one of the many versions.

  8. I always felt that there was a lot of things wrong in this part of the epic. Sugreeva’s eagerness to interpret the blood as his brother’s, taking Vali’s wife as his own, Rama killing Valli in deceit!
    So many shades of grey in each character!

    • @the little princess, I precisely chose the seven sins because we have a tendency to keep repeating them all the time

  9. Here I come with my own version of it 🙂

    Sugriva was the weakest of the brothers and Bali, strongest. Everything till cave was fine. Post returning from the cave, the sugriva came back to kishkinta and told everybody about the sad demise of Bali which everyone believed but did not bothered to go near the cave and check.

    Soon Sugriva became the king and he took charge of Bali’s mourning wife. One day when the mighty Bali rescued himself from the cave, returned to his kingdom and saw Sugriva, he went further furious (off course that explained why he was blocked inside cave by brother). In great anger he rejected his wife and thrown Sugriva out (that was a mistake that he didn’t listen/trusted his brother who inspite of his order, left him inside the cave and ran off- not something braves do).

    Ram killed Bali with chal (cheating) so that he can gather Sugriva’s support (not sure abt the wife issue, may be true as Ram too was grieving his wife’ abduction). Bali was not greedy but sugriva was too weak.

  10. Was wanting to read your posts since a long time…The Bali Sugriva episode is definitely the grey side of Ramayana .. Ram’s deceit cannot be justified .. Loved your narration

  11. Rama becomes more and more human as the story progresses does he? How can he justify the slaying of Vali. If it was for Dharma, the one thing he is known for, why employ deceit?

    You have a way of telling these stories and I’m loving it here!

    • @Bhavya, yes, I guess the point of the Ramayana was that Rama after a point gets so caught up in ‘doing his duties’ that he ends up becoming more and more human, especially how he ends up subjecting Sita to the Agni Pariksha just because it was a King’s duty to ensure that his Queen showed up as ‘pure’ in front of the eyes of his people

      And thank you so much for the kind words. Will surely put up more mythology related posts in the future as well.

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