Episode 107 – At what age did Rama leave for the forest? – Beauty of the Sanskrit Language!!


In the previous episode we continued our discussion about Rama’s exile plans and how Kaikeyi took control of the proceedings at Ayodhya to dictate terms to people. Accordingly she orders that her son Bharata would henceforth rule Ayodhya and Rama go on exile for the next fourteen years! When she conveyed this to Rama, he accepted it with his ever smiling and handsome face without even a drop of blemish or anger on his face! Such is the characteristic of an “Udhaarana Purusha” (An Ideal person) – To take both happy and sad situations with a smile! We then witnessed that Rama goes to Kaushalya to inform his decision of going on exile. Upon hearing this from him, Kaushalya was stunned beyond words and starts to cry profusely! Rama consoles her and explains the whole situation to her.

At the end of the previous episode we started a very important discussion pertaining to Rama’s age – The most important question here to be answered is that, at what age did Rama leave to the forest.

We shall find out the exact answer in today’s episode. For our understanding purpose, let’s recall the sloka of Valmiki Maharishi we saw yesterday and take it forward from there:

“Dasha sapthacha varshaani jaathasya thava raaghava!

Adeethaani prakaashanthyaa mayaa dukhka pareekshayam!!”

The above sloka starts with the phrase “Dasha sapthacha varshaani”, which might outwardly mean 10+7 = 17 years. However, the readers might remember that I’ve been telling in various occasions that Rama had gone to the forest only at the age of 24. (The marriage ceremony was when Rama was 12 and for the next subsequent 12 years, Rama and Sita lived happily at Ayodhya!) You might ask me why is this misconception? Why is this controversy here? Now let’s have a closer look at this scenario:

You might also remember that previously when King Dasharata was arguing with Sage Vishwaamithra to not send Rama with him, he says,

“Uuna shodasa varshaha me raamau raajeevalochanaha!”

Here, shodasa means sixteen and “Uuna shodasa varshaha” means Rama is “less than sixteen years” of age! Now going by this explanation, we might immediately have an opinion that if it is less than 16, it might be 15 or 14 or anything else! Now, add this 15 with this 17 which Kaushalya now says.. We might tend to arrive at a conclusion that Rama goes to the forest at the age of 32! Is this right?

To add to this confusion, there is another phrase in the Valmiki Ramayana – At the time when Ravana comes as a “Bikshu” (Saint) to Panchavati wherein Sita was alone, Sita introduces herself to Ravana for the first time and during this she says,

“Mama bharthaa pancha vimshathi varshitaha!”

Here, through the above line Sita explains to Ravana “My husband was at the age of 25 when he was ordered to go to the forest!” (“Pancha Vimshathi” means 25).

Thus, so far we’ve seen three cases:

Case 1: Kaushalya saying that she has waited for 17 years to see Rama going to the forest!

Case 2: Going by King Dasharata’s words and putting a probable arithmetic, we arrive at a conclusion that Rama’s age might have been 32 years old when he goes to the forest!

Case 3: Going by Sita’s words to Ravana, Rama was 25 years old when he went to the forest!

Now which of the three cases are true? The answer here is: The case wherein Sita talks with the “Bikshu” or “Sanyasin” should be the truth! It is because there is a “Raaja-Dharma” that only the truth is to be spoken to Sanyasins or great Saints or Maharishis! Sita knows this Raaja Dharma very well and hence we should come to the conclusion that out of the three cases, Case 3 is the one that is valid!

But it is also important to understand as to why did I reject Case 1 and 2. We shall see the explanations one by one:

With respect to Case 1, I’ve already given the explanation in one of the previous episodes that when King Dasharata says, “Uuna Shodasa Varshaha”, it just means that Rama is not eligible to go on to wage a war since he was a child! It does not have anything to do in particular with Rama’s age. According to the context, the most important aim of King Dasharata was to highlight that Rama is not 16 years old, which was the eligible age for a prince to wage a war. So we shouldn’t confuse this phrase anymore!

However, Case 2 is still tricky! How do we answer this? Here comes the beauty of the Sanskrit Language! What was the phrase again?

“Dasha sapthacha varshaani jaathasya thava raaghava!”

We know that “Dasha” means ten and Saptha means seven. If we look at this phrase closely, it is not “Dasha Saptha Varshaani”. It is “Dasha Saptha Cha Varshaani”! Notice the alphabet “Cha” after “Dasha” and “Saptha”. This makes all the difference! In Sanskrit, this “Cha” is like what we say a “conjunction” in English. These kinds of conjunctions in Sanskrit can give thousands of different meanings for one single phrase! For the case pertaining to numbers, if a “Cha” comes after two numbers, there is a rule in Sanskrit that you need to add the last digit to the entire number once more!

For instance, here we have “Dasha Saptha Cha”. As per the above-explained rule, it should now be, 10+7+7. (Because “Cha” comes after “Dasha” and “Saptha”) Now what happens? 10+7+7 = 24!! Now it’s settled!

Thus, we can understand from this above explanation that Rama was 24 years old and he was in his 25’th year when he leaves to the forest! Now we can see that Cases 2 and 3 match perfectly! This is why we should realize that every alphabet in Sanskrit is important and it has the potential to change the entire meaning of a sentence if it is not placed properly!

Now Rama finally convinces Kaushalya and takes her blessings to leave to the forest. Kaushalya bids her dearest son a tearful farewell. Next, Rama comes to see Sita! What did Sita say? What was the conversation that took place between Rama and Sita? Let’s wait till the next episode to find out! 🙂

Published by Dr. Jeayaram

Holds a PhD in Management Psychology from Universite Paris Saclay, Paris, France. Also an Asst. Professor of Human Resources management at Bharatidhasan Institute of Management (BIM) Trichy, India A professional South Indian classical musician (singer) performing concerts. Through this blog, I'm trying to bring out the richness of Indian culture & values and I request your support and feedbacks in making this humble effort a success!!

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