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In Hindu mythology, Sugriva (Sanskrit: सुग्रीव, Sugrīva, Malay: Sugriwa, Thai: Sugreep, Creole: Soogrim; also spelled Sugreeva or Sugreev) was the younger brother of Vali, whom he succeeded as ruler of the vanara or monkey kingdom Kishkindha. Roma was his wife. He was the son of Surya, the Hindu deity of the sun. As king of the monkeys, Sugriva aided Rama in his quest to liberate his wife Sita from captivity at the hands of the Rakshasa king Ravana.

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The story of Sugriva

The story of Sugriva is part of the Ramayana and, in an abbreviated version, is also present in the Mahabharata.

Sugriva and Vali have a disagreement

Vali ruled the kingdom of Kishkindha; his subjects were the vanaras, or monkeys. Tara was his wife and Sugriva was his brother. One day, a raging demon came to the gates of the capital and challenged Vali to a fight. Vali accepted the challenge, but when he sallied forth, the demon fled in terror into a deep cave. Vali entered the cave in pursuit of the demon, telling Sugriva to wait outside. When Vali did not return, and upon hearing demonic shouts in the cave and seeing blood oozing from its mouth, Sugriva concluded that his brother had been killed. With a heavy heart, Sugriva rolled a boulder to seal the cave's opening, returned to Kishkindha, and assumed kingship over the vanaras. Vali, however, ultimately prevailed in his combat with the demon and returned home. Seeing Sugriva acting as king, he concluded that his brother had betrayed him. Though Sugriva humbly attempted to explain himself, Vali would not listen. As a result, Sugriva was ostracized from the kingdom, Vali forcibly took Sugriva's wife, Roma, and the brothers became bitter enemies.[1]

Sugriva makes an alliance with Rama

Rama and Lakshmana meet Sugreeva, Painting made in Paithan, Maharashtra

In exile, Sugriva made the acquaintance of Rama, the avatar of Vishnu, who was on a quest to rescue his wife Sita from the demon Ravana, king of the Rakshasas. Rama promised Sugriva that he would kill Vali and would reinstate Sugriva as the king of the monkeys. Sugriva, in turn, promised to help Rama with his quest.[2]

Rama kills Vali; Sugriva takes over the monkey kingdom

Together, Sugriva and Rama went to seek out Vali. While Rama stood back, Sugriva shouted a challenge, and dared him to battle. The brothers rushed at each other, fighting with trees and stones, with fists, nails and teeth. They were evenly matched and indistinguishable to the observer, until Sugriva's counsellor Hanuman stepped forward and placed a garland of flowers around Sugriva's neck. It was then that Rama emerged with his bow and drove an arrow through Vali's heart. When Vali had expired, Sugriva reclaimed the monkey kingdom and Vali's Widow Tara.[3]

Tara convinces Sugriva to help Rama to conquer Lanka and to rescue Sita

When Rama decided to move against Lanka, he was angered because Sugriva spent his time carousing and seemed to forget his pledge to help Rama. Rama's brother, Lakshmana, was about to destroy the monkey kingdom and kill Sugriva. It was only after the diplomatic intervention of Tara that Lakshmana was pacified and Sugriva and Rama were reconciled. Sugriva sent his trusted advisor Hanuman to determine Sita's whereabouts. Hanuman's finding was that Ravana was holding Sita captive in his island fortress of Lanka Then Sugriva placed his army of monkeys at the hero's disposal. The army crossed into Lanka by means of a specially erected bridge and laid siege to Ravana's citadel. After some hard fighting, the monkeys prevailed over the demons, Rama slew Ravana, and Sita was liberated.[4]

During the battle, Sugriva almost came to a violent death when he decided to take on the Rakshasa Kumbhakarna, a brother of Ravana. Seeing the demon in the middle of the fray, Sugriva attacked him with the trunk of a sala tree. The tree, however, merely broke over the demon's head. Kumhhakarna then seized Sugriva and dragged him off, and no doubt would have killed him but for the timely intervention of Rama's brother Lakshmana.[5]

This tympanum from the Khmer temple of Banteay Srei depicts Sugriva fighting with his brother Vali. To the right, Rama is poised to shoot an arrow at Vali.

Sugriva and his fight with Lava & Kusha

On Lakshmana’s request and after Guru Vasistha’s approval Rama plans to do Ashvamedha Yagya. At this auspicious occasion he calls Sugriva along with Angada, Nala, Neela, Jambavantha and Hanumana to come to Ayodhya. Rama greats and hugs Sugriva, Jambavantha and others on their arrival to Ayodhya.

The Yagya horse was captured by Lava and Kusha brothers. In the Rama’s army the news spreads that two muni kumara’s has captured the Yagya’s horse. Shatrughana walks and fights with Lava and he was defeated by Lava. Then Lakshamana comes and he was also defeated by Lava. Then Bharata asks Rama to give him the permission to go to set horse free from both muni Kumara. Sugriva and Hanumana also request Rama to permit them to got along with Bharata in the battle. Lava and Kusha defeat Bharata and Sugriva and take Hanumana as a prisoner. Hanumana was the only servant to Rama that knew that Lava and Kush were the sons of his master & Sita and thus allowed himself to be imprisoned by his master's sons.[6]

Artistic and Folkloric Depictions of Sugriva

  • The combat of Sugriva with his brother Vali was a favorite motif of the Khmer sculpters contributing to the Angkorian temples and monuments near Siem Reap in Cambodia.
    • A detailed and moving tympanum at the 10th century Hindu temple of Banteay Srei depicts the combat of the brothers, as well as Rama's intervention and Vali's death in the arms of another monkey.
    • A bas-relief at the 12th century temple of Angkor Wat shows the fight between the brothers, the arrival of Rama, and Vali lying on his death-bed, mourned by many other monkeys. Another scene shows Sugriva and Rama entering into their alliance. A large bas-relief depicts the Battle of Lanka between Rama and Sugriva's army of monkeys and Ravana's army of Rakshasas.
    • The fight between Vali and Sugriva is also represented at the lesser-known 13th century Angkorian temple of Preah Pithu.

References

  • Anna Dhallapiccola, Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend. (ISBN 0-500-51088-1)
  • Valmiki Ramayana, Ramayana written by Maharshi Valmiki.

Footnotes

  1. ^ Ramayana of Valmiki, Book IV, Canto 9-10.
  2. ^ Ramayana of Valmiki, Book IV, Canto 8, 10; Mahabharata, Book III: Varna Parva, Section 278.
  3. ^ Ramayana of Valmiki, Book IV, Canto 11 ff.; Mahabharata, Book III: Varna Parva, Section 278.
  4. ^ Mahabharata, Book III: Varna Parva, Section 280 ff; The Ramayana. R.K.Narayan. Vision Books. 1987. Chapter 7.
  5. ^ Mahabharata, Book III: Varna Parva, Section 285.
  6. ^ Valmiki Ramayana

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