Age of Rama: 17 or 25? And why does it matter?

Valmiki Ramayana has two sets of ‘chronological references’ that lead to two different, mutually contradictory and conflicting outcomes.

Rama leaving for Vanavas

Set – 1

When Rama was ready to leave for Vanavas, Kausalya, his mother, tells Rama,

Ayodhya Kand (GP edition 20:45)

दश सप्त च वर्षाणि तव जातस्य राघव |
असितानि प्रकान्क्षन्त्या मया दुह्ख परिक्षयम् ||

(I was waiting, from your birth, for 17 years, for my troubles to be over)

Gorresio’s edition of Ramayana, essentially, states the same…

Gorressio’s Text: Ayodhya 17:35

Gorresio text

This means Rama was 17/18 years old when he left Ayodhya, for Vanavas.

Set – 2

Against this claim of set-1, Valmiki Ramayana contains a reference that states that Rama was 25 years old when he left for Vanavas.

Sita tells Ravana, at Panchavati, during their conversation, that Rama was 25 years old and she, 18 years old, when they left for Vanavas.

Aranya Kand (GP edition 47: 10)

मम भर्ता महातेजा वयसा पंच विंशकः ||
अष्टा दश हि वर्षाणि मम जन्मनि गण्यते |

Sita also states that Rama and Sita lived in Ayodhya for 12 years enjoying all that is there to be enjoyed. When 13th year began, King Dasharatha decided, in consultation with his ministers, to coronate Rama.

Aranya Kand (GP edition 47:3-4)

उषित्वा द्वा दश समाः इक्ष्वाकूणाम् निवेशने |
भुंजाना मानुषान् भोगान् सर्व काम समृद्धिनी ||

तत्र त्रयो दशे वर्षे राज अमंत्र्यत प्रभुः |
अभिषेचयितुम् रामम् समेतो राज मन्त्रिभिः ||

The reference of Rama and Sita living in Ayodhya, for 12 years and King Dasharatha’s decision to coronate Rama in the 13th year, is repeated, almost verbatim, in Sundar Kand.

Sita, residing at Ashoka-vana, in captivity of Ravana, tells Hanuman,

Sundar Kand (GP edition 31:13-14)

समा द्वादश तत्र अहम् राघवस्य निवेशने ||
भुन्जाना मानुषान् भोगान् सर्व काम समृद्धिनी |

ततः त्रयोदशे वर्षे राज्येन इक्ष्वाकु नन्दनम् ||
अभिषेचयितुम् राजा स उपाध्यायः प्रचक्रमे |

Thus, chronological statements of set-2 state that:

(1) Rama was 25 years old and Sita was 18 years old, when they left for Vanavas.

(2) Rama and Sita lived in Ayodhya (after their wedding) for 12 years, before Dasharatha decided (in 13th year) to coronate Rama, and that is when, as familiar to readers of Ramayana, Rama and Sita left for Vanavas.

(3) Combining (1) and (2) also leads to the conclusion that Rama was ~13 years old and Sita was ~6 years old at the time of their wedding.

In order to solve this problem of two mutually contradictory/conflicting outcomes, we would have to search for additional Valmiki Ramayana references that would in turn allow us to select one outcome over the other.

This is not always possible.  Fortunately, Valmiki Ramayana preserves ample evidence for us to decide between two outcomes as the correct (and at a minimum – most likely scenario) outcome.

We will reach this conclusion with the help of specific Valmiki Ramayana narrations…

(A)

After leaving Ayodhya, for Vanavas, Rama, Sita & Laxman arrived at the ashram of sage Atri.  During her conversations with sage Anusuya, wife of sage Atri, Sita states that ….

Ayodhya Kand (GP edition 118:34)

पति सम्योग सुलभम् वयो दृष्ट्वा तु मे पिता |
चिन्ताम् अभ्यगमद् दीनो वित्त नाशाद् इव अधनः ||

(“Seeing my age to be such, when union with a husband can be easily had, my father fell a prey to anxiety like an indigent man, feeling miserable by the loss of all his possessions.”)

Gorressio’s text and BORI critical edition contain the same reference.

For a girl to be considered of suitable age for physical union with her husband, she has to attain menstruation and thus about ~14 years old.

It is true that  in our times and especially in industrialized societies, average age for onset of menstruation is declining (http://www.cwhn.ca/en/node/39365), however for our subject of Ramayana, we are talking of things ~14000 years ago.

This reference of Valmiki Ramayana then falsifies claim (3) of ‘Sita being ~6 years old at the time of her wedding’, of set-2.

(B)

There is additional evidence in Valmiki Ramayana, that, again, falsifies claim (3) of set-2, viz. Sita was ~6 years old at the time of her wedding.

When four couples (Rama, Laxman, Bharat, Shatrughna and their respective wives) returned to Ayodhya, the couples  enjoyed their times in the privacy of their own palace chambers.

Bala Kand (GP edition 77:14)

अभिवाद्य अभिवाद्यान् च सर्वा राज सुताः तदा ||
रेमिरे मुदिताः सर्वा भर्तृभिः सहिता रहः |

(Then all the princesses paid respects to all of the respectable ones, and they luxuriated in sequestered palace-chambers along with their husbands)

(C)

There is further evidence in Valmiki Ramayana, that falsifies set-2 claim of Rama being about 13 years at the time of his wedding.

Sage Vishwamitra came to the rajyasabha of Raja Dasharatha and requested assistance of Rama (and Laxman) to protect his Yajna at Siddhashrama.  This is the time when Rama was not married yet, and Dasharatha states to sage Vishwamitra that ‘Rama is merely 16 years old and thus not ready to fight with Rakshasas.’

Raja Dasharatha states…

Bala Kand (GP edition 20:2)

ऊन षोडश वर्षो मे रामो राजीव लोचनः |
न युद्ध योग्यताम् अस्य पश्यामि सह राक्षसैः ||

In the end, sage Vasishtha convinced Dasharatha to send Rama/Laxman with sage Vishwamitra.  Rama and Laxman protected Yajna of sage Vishwamitra for 6 days and defeated Marich and Subahu on the 6th day of Yajna.  Vishwamitra aksed Rama and Laxman to accompany him to Mithila and that is when Rama, Laxman, Bharata & Shatrughna were married to each 4 daughters of Mithila family, viz. Sita, Urmila, Mandavi & Shrutakirti.

Newly married couples returned to Ayodhya in few days and began enjoying married life.

(D)

Now, let’s us focus on claim (2) of set-2  which states that Rama and Sita lived in Ayodhya for 12 years, after their wedding, before they left for Vanavas.

The vary reference from set-2 that claims this (Rama-Sita living in Ayodhya for 12 years) has alternate reading that rather refers to them staying in Ayodhya for about ONE YEAR (and not 12 years).

BORI critical edition selected this reference for their Aryanya kand edition.

Aranya kand (BORI critical edition 45:4-5)

संवत्सरं चाध्युषिता राघवस्य निवेशने

भूज्जाना मानुपान्भोगान्सर्वकामसमृद्धिनी

तत: संवत्सरादूर्ध्वं सममन्यत मे पतिं

अभिषेचयिन्तु रामं समेतो राजमन्त्रिभि:

(Rama and Sita enjoyed the married life for about a year. when year was over, Dasharatha, in consultation with his ministers, decided to coronate Rama.)

This narration is also consistent  with set-1 references of Rama being about 17/18 years old at the time of Vanavas and his being about 16 years old (one year before his leaving for Vanavas) when sage Vishwamitra came to Dasharatha to ask for assistance of Rama and Laxman.

This falsifies claim(2) of set-2

(E)

Claim (2) of set-2, viz. Rama and Sita lived in Ayodhya for 12 years, is further falsified by entire narration of Valmiki Ramayana – beginning with the day of Rama-Sita wedding and leading to the day of Rama-Sita leaving for Vanavas.

Valmiki Ramayana states that all the married couples returned to Ayodhya and began living in their private palace chambers.

When some time had gone by, Dasharatha came to Bharata and told him that latter’s maternal uncle had stayed behind due to the wedding of four sons of Dasharatha and that he wanted Bharata and Shatrughna to accompany him to his kingdom of Kekaya (Bharata’s maternal home).

Bala Kand  (GP edition 77:15-19)

कस्यचित् अथ कालस्य राजा दशरधः सुतम् ||
भरतम् कैकेयी पुत्रम् अब्रवीत् रघुन्ंदन |

अयम् केकय राजस्य पुत्रो वसति पुत्रक ||
त्वाम् नेतुम् आगतो वीरो युधाजित् मातुलः तव |

Soon, Bharata and Shatrughna left for Kekaya capital.

श्रुत्वा दशरथस्य एतत् भरतः कैकेयि सुतः ||
गमनाय अभिचक्राम शत्रुघ्न सहितः तदा |

आपृच्छ्य पितरम् शूरो रामम् च अक्लिष्ट कर्मणम् ||
मातॄः च अपि नरश्रेष्ट शत्रुघ्न सहितो ययौ |

युधाजित् प्राप्य भरतम् स शत्रुघ्नम् प्रहर्षितः ||
स्व पुरम् प्रविवेशत् वीरः पिता तस्य तुतोष ह |

Rama and Sita spent many (बहून्) seasons at Ayodhya.

Bala Kand (GP edition 77:25)

रामः च सीतया सार्धम् विजहार बहून् ऋतून् || १-७७-२५
मनस्वी तद् गतमानस्य तस्या हृदि समर्पितः |

This is when Bala kand ends.

Ayodhya kand begins with descriptions of noble behavior of Rama and then Dasharatha’s decision to coronate Rama, when Bharata and Shatrughna were still away at Kekaya capital.

This narration then, again, asserts a time period of about one year, rather than 12 years between wedding of Rama-Sita and their day of leaving for Vanavas.

(F)

One additional reference, of Valmiki Ramayana, appears, atleast, at the outset, to support claims of set-2:

Marich tells Ravana, at the former’s ashram that Rama was about 12 years old when he defeated Marich (at the time of Yajna of sage Vishwamitra).

Aranya Kand (GP edition 38:5-6)

इति एवं उक्तो धर्मात्मा राजा दशरथ: तदा

प्रत्युवाच महाभागं विश्वामित्रम महामुनिं

ऊन द्वादश वर्षो अयं अकृत अस्त्र: च राघव:

कामं तु मम यत सैन्यं मया सह गमिष्यति

However, this reference gives away its own nature of ‘interpolation’ on two counts.

(aa)

Alternate reading of this verse, as stated in BORI CE does not employ ‘ऊन द्वादश वर्षो ‘ but rather ‘ऊन षोडश वर्षो’., i.e. Rama as 16 years old.

Aranya kand (BORI critical edition 36:5-6)

इत्येवमुक्तो धर्मात्मा राजा दशरथस्तदा

प्रत्युवाच महाभागं विश्वामित्रं महामुनिं

ऊन षोडश वर्षोsयमकृतास्त्रश्च राघव:

कामं तु मम यत्सैन्यं मया सह गमिष्यति

बधिष्यामि मुनिश्रेष्ठ शत्रुं तव यथेप्सितं

(bb)

The second count which gives away nature of this interpolation of Rama= 12 years at the time of Yajna of sage Vishwamitra.  This appears to be an attempt (by whoever) to match this timeline with the claim of Rama being 13 years old at the time of his wedding.

However, this conflicts with Rama being equal to 16 years old at the time of his wedding or Rama being 17/18 years old at the time of his leaving for Vanavas.

I also wonder if whoever made this change, also assumed, erroneously (erroneous for his/her claim of Rama/Sita as 25/18 or 13/6), that there was a gap of one year between Rama assisting sage Vishwamitra with latter’s Yajna and the timing of Rama-Sita wedding.

Thus, while an attempt was made (via interpolation) to match with another interpolated claim…the attempt was a mixed bag…since it combined two conflicting assumptions (Rama being 13 at the time of his wedding with he and Sita living in Ayodhya for only 1 year).

(G)

And while on the subject of interpolation, we have evidence of it occurring ‘in situ’.

A reference to a year (संवत्सरं) can also be made by referring to ’12 months (द्वादश मास) and an innocent (or deliberate) ‘transposition’ error of turning द्वादश मास (12 months) into द्वादश समा (12 years) can set the interpretation on different track altogether.

Thus I assert that …

Aranya Kand (GP edition 47:3-4)

उषित्वा द्वा दश समाः इक्ष्वाकूणाम् निवेशने |
भुंजाना मानुषान् भोगान् सर्व काम समृद्धिनी ||

OR

Sundar Kand (GP edition 31:13-14)

समा द्वादश तत्र अहम् राघवस्य निवेशने ||
भुन्जाना मानुषान् भोगान् सर्व काम समृद्धिनी |

could ‘उषित्वा द्वा दश मास’ or ‘मास द्वादश’, in the original that became ‘उषित्वा द्वा दश समाः’ or ‘समा द्वादश तत्र ‘.

Once this happened, following verses were naturally modified to suit these modified lines, such as…

तत्र त्रयो दशे वर्षे राज अमंत्र्यत प्रभुः |
अभिषेचयितुम् रामम् समेतो राज मन्त्रिभिः ||

OR

ततः त्रयोदशे वर्षे राज्येन इक्ष्वाकु नन्दनम् ||
अभिषेचयितुम् राजा स उपाध्यायः प्रचक्रमे |

Realize that such modifications would not have been possible with the word ‘संवत्सरं’.

Of course, we do not have sufficient evidence to know  if imposition of Rama= 25 at the time of Vanavas occurred first and then interpolation of ’12 years’ from original ’12 months’ or vice versa.

Conclusion:

Claims of set-1 are thus transformed into  assertions of set-1

Rama was indeed about 16 years old when sage Vishwamitra came to Dasharatha, asking for assistance of Rama and Laxman.  Rama was about 16 years old when he wedded Sita and they lived in Ayodhya for about one year before Dasharatha decided to coronate Rama.  Rama was about 17/18 years old at this time and thus at the time of his leaving for Vanavas.

We can also assert that Rama and Sita were of the same age.

Ok. So Rama was about 17 years old at the time of his leaving for Vanvas.

And why does it matter?

This matters because there are specific astronomy descriptions of Sun, Mars and Rahu being in the janma -nakshatra  either of Dasharatha or of Dasharatha and Rama, at the time of Rama’s scheduled coronation.

Ayodhya kand (GP edition 4:18)

अवष्टब्धं च मे राम नक्षत्रं दारूणग्रहै:

आवेदयन्ति दैवज्ञा: सूर्यानअंगारकराहुभि:

Let’s test this astronomy observation for five claimed dates, for day of Rama leaving for Vanavas, by five different researchers.

(1) Dr. P V Vartak proposed 29 November 7306 BCE (Gregorian)

(Assumption: Rama = 17 years old)

Sun near nakshtra Revati

Rahu between nakshatra Revati & U. Bhadrapada

Mars between nakshatra Ardra & Mrigashirsha

(2) Late Shri Pushkar Bhatnagar proposed 4/5 January 5089 (5090) BCE (Gregorian).  Delta of one year (5089 vs. 5090) is due to difference in software settings.

(Assumption: Rama = 25 years old)

Sun and Mars together, and near nakshatra Revati

Rahu (node) between nakshatra Purva Bhadrapada and Shatabhishaj

(3) Team of 3 researchers with initials SRS (Sabarathnam, Ramdurai & Sundaram) proposed 19 December 10231 BCE (Julian)

They never proposed specific date for this event, but is been extrapolated by me (Nilesh Oak) based on their other proposed dates (e.g. Rama Janma and Ravana Vadha)

(Assumption: Rama = 25 years old)

Sun near U. Bhadrapada

Mars near Ashwini

Rahu near Ardra

(4) Nilesh Oak (yours truly) proposed 20/21 December 12223 BCE  (Julian)

(Assumption: Rama = 17 years old)

Sun and Mars near nakshatra Revati

Rahu near nakshatra Pushya

(5) Shri Prafulla Mendki

proposed 1 January 5090 BCE (Gregorian) as the day of Rama-Janma. Shri Mendaki states this date as 1 January 5089 BCE…for the same reason as that of Shri Pushkar Bhatnagar, i.e. minor issue with software convention).

I estimated/extrapolated his date for Rama leaving for the forest as that of 28 December 5066 BCE (Gregorian)

(Assumption: Rama = 25 years old)

Sun near nakshatra Revati

Mars between nakshatra Rohini & Mrigashirsha

Rahu between nakshatra Rohini & Krittika

Summary:

None of the 5 researchers can corroborate all 3 – Sun, Mars & Rahu in one nakshatra (+/-1)

Only two researchers – Oak & Bhatnagar, corroborate Sun & Mars, together in one nakshatra (+/-1)

Only one researcher, Oak corroborates Sun & Mars, together in one naskatra (+/-1) and age of Rama= 17

(If the Valmiki Ramayana observation is interpreted to mean these 3 Sun-Mars-Rahu were in janma-nakshatra of both Dasharatha and Rama….

Then,

Only one researcher, Oak, corroborates Sun, Mars & Rahu in nakshatra(s) of Dasharatha and Rama (+/-1) and age of Rama = 17

Added later (on 21 April 2016)

My information for the proposed date of Shri Prafulla Mendki is based on his comments on Facebook.  I have no access to his books.

Today, I realized that his proposed day for Rama-Janma is 1 Jan 5649 BCE (Gregorian)

Adding 25 years to this date (since he assumes age of Rama = 25, on the day he left for Vanavas…again based on his FB responses)

We estimate, his proposed day for Rama leaving for Vanavas  is about 24 December 5625 BCE (Gregorian).

On this day…

Sun is at nakshatra Revati (RA  of Sun = 18 h 31 min, dynamic epoch)

Mars is at nakshatra Ashwini (RA of Mars = 19 h 39 min, dynamic epoch)

Rahu is at nakshatra Rohini (RA of Rahu = 22 h 5 min, dynamic epoch)

Thus, Mars and Sun can be considered as within (+/-1) nakshatra.

Thus, my modified Summary would be as follows…

None of the 5 researchers can corroborate all 3 – Sun, Mars & Rahu in one nakshatra (+/-1)

Only three researchers – Oak, Mendki & Bhatnagar, corroborate Sun & Mars, together in one nakshatra (+/-1)

Only one researcher, Oak corroborates Sun & Mars, together in one naskatra (+/-1) and age of Rama= 17

And

(If the Valmiki Ramayana observation is interpreted to mean these 3 Sun-Mars-Rahu were in janma-nakshatra of both Dasharatha and Rama….

Then,

Only one researcher, Oak, corroborates Sun, Mars & Rahu in nakshatra(s) of Dasharatha and Rama (+/-1) and age of Rama = 17

 

 

 

 

 

 

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