Ramopakhyana (रामोपाख्यानम्)

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Rama Upakhyana (Samskrit : रामोपाख्यानम्) is a short anecdote (upakhyana) describing the story of Shri Rama and Sitadevi (Ramayana) in Mahabharata Vanaparva in adhyayas 273 to 292. Ramopakhyana in Mahabharata gives us an insight about the tradition of verbal transmission practiced since ages and hence an important anecdote to reflect upon. It is a well known aspect that the events of Ramayana happened in Tretayuga while Mahabharata was in Dvapara Yuga. It is interesting to note that almost a complete recount of Ramayana has been discussed in Mahabharata in the Vanaparva even after a long period of time, yuga, has elapsed.


Maharaja Yudhisthira while spending his time in the forests along with his brothers and wife Draupadi, once laments with Maharshi Markandeya about his distressing state. During that time Draupadi was abducted by Jayadratha and subsequent to releasing her from his captivity, Yudhisthira is deeply disturbed by such calamities that have befallen on him and his family. Yudhisthira exclaims that no one cannot escape from events due to time or his own deeds else how can Draupadi, born from the yajna, the respected daughter-in-law of Maharaja Pandu face such a humiliation of being abducted by Jayadratha. She has always followed dharma, and behaved respectfully towards elders, brahmanas and rshis and we are distressed that abduction of Draupadi has befallen on us. Yudhisthira asks Markandeya whether he has seen or heard about any person who is as ill-fated as us (Pandavas due to the abduction of wife) in this world?[1]

हिंसा च मृगजातीनां वनौकोभिर्वनौकसाम्। ज्ञातिभिर्विप्रवासश्च मिथ्याव्यवसितैरय[रिय]म्॥ 3-273-12

अस्ति नूनं मया कश्चिदल्पभाग्यतरो नरः। भवता दृष्टपूर्वो वा श्रुतपूर्वोऽपि वा भवेत्॥ 3-273-13

रामरावणयोर्जन्मकथनम् ॥ Birth of Shri Rama and Ravana

Markandeya Maharshi in answer to Yudhisthira's question recounts the story of ShriRamachandra who had to live in the forest and had to endure the abduction of his wife, in brief as follows.

प्राप्तमप्रतिमं दुःखं रामेण भरतर्षभ। रक्षसा जानकी तस्य हृता भार्या बलीयसा॥ 3-274-1

आश्रमाद्राक्षसेन्द्रेण रावणेन दुरात्मना। मायामास्थाय तरसा हत्वा गृध्रं जटायुषम्॥ 3-274-2

प्रत्याजहार तां रामः सुग्रीवबलमाश्रितः। बद्ध्वा सेतुं समुद्रस्य दग्ध्वा लङ्कां शितैः शरैः॥ 3-274-3

Curious Yudhisthira asks him to explain ShriRama charitra and all the difficulties he endured. Markandeya starts to recite the anecdote with Maharaja Aja who belonged to the Ikshvaku lineage, who had a son Dasaratha. Dasaratha a pious and learned person, had four sons Rama by Kausalya, Bharata through Kaikeyi and by wife Sumitra he had Lakshmana and Shatrughna. Brahma himself created Sita, as the daughter of Janaka Maharaja of Videha, to be the dear wife of ShriRamachandra.

Origin of Ravana's Family

In Mahabharata we find the details of the lineage of Ravana, described by Markandeya as follows: Brahma ---- Pulastya (पुलस्त्यः । One of the Manasaputras) ---- Vaishravana (वैश्रवणः। Son born of Gau) and Vishrava (विश्रवस् । Pulastya's form of himself associated with anger) ---- Dashagreeva (Ravana, son of Pushpotkata)

पितामहो रावणस्य साक्षाद्देवः प्रजापतिः। स्वयम्भूः सर्वलोकानां प्रभुः स्रष्टा महातपाः॥ 3-274-11

पुलस्त्यो नाम तस्यासीन्मानसो दयितः सुतः। तस्य वैश्रवणो नाम गवि पुत्रोऽभवत्प्रभुः॥ 3-274-12

Vaishravana or Kubera

The story goes thus... Brahma, the Creator, himself is the grandfather of Ravana. Brahmadeva had a manasaputra called Pulastya. To Pulastya was born Vaishravana through his wife Gau. Vaishravana however, leaving his father Pulastya, was always in service of his grandfather Brahma. Angered by this action, Pulastya created another form of his from half his body, called as Vishravas. Vishravas held a deep resentment for Vaishravana and was always looking for an opportunity to attack him. Brahma was highly pleased with the services of Vaishravana and bestowed

  • अमरत्वम् ॥ Amaratva or immortality
  • धनेशत्वम् ॥ Rulership over wealth
  • लोकपालत्वम् ॥ one of the rulers of the lokas
  • लङ्काधिपत्यम् ॥ Ruler of Lanka, the capital of land of rakshasas
  • यक्षाणामाधिपत्यम् ॥ Rulership over the Yaksha ganas (semi-celestial beings)

Brahma encouraged the Vaishravana to seek support of Mahadeva and granted him a son, named Nalakubara. He also gave Vaishravana the title of "Rajaraja". He granted Pushpakavimana to travel anywhere as per his wish via the aerial route to Kubera.

Ravana and his siblings

Vaishravana who was granted many boons by his grandfather, Brahma, was always viewed with resentment and anger by his father's form Vishravas (विश्रवस्). He made many attempts to please him. Vaishravana or Rajaraja Kubera always lived in Lanka, enjoying all the wealth, he engaged people to carry him on their shoulders in a vehicle (नरवाहनः). To please his father Vishravas, he engaged the services of three rakshasis (परिचारिकाः) named Pushpotkata (पुष्पोत्कटा) Malini (मालिनी) and Raaka (राका) well versed in song and dance and who served him competitively to gain his good graces. Pleased with their service, Vishravas granted them each of them sons according to their wish, who are as mighty with immense strength equal to that of lokapalakas.

पुष्पोत्कटायां जज्ञाते द्वौ पुत्रौ राक्षसेश्वरौ। कुम्भकर्णदशग्रीवौ बलेनाप्रतिमौ भुवि॥ 3-275-7

मालिनी जनयामास पुत्रमेकं विभीषणम्। राकायां मिथुनं जज्ञे खरः शूर्पणखा तथा॥ 3-275-8

Ravana and Kumbhakarna of Pushpotkata who were mighty rakshasas. Malini gave birth to one son named Vibhishana. Raaka gave birth to a male child named Khara and a female child named Surpanakha.

Ravana's Jealousy

Once when Kubera, in his pomp and splendour was in the company of Vishravas. At that time Ravana and others were moved by jealousy over his wealth and grandeur. In their heart of hearts they all decided to do severe tapas (penance) to please Brahma. Ravana did penance for thousand years standing on one foot, living only on air and in deep meditation with Panchaagnis around him. Kumbhakarna similarly limited his food and slept only on the ground. Vibhishana sustained himself only on dry leaves during his penance. Clever and generous hearted Vibhishana so continued his penance for years along with his brothers. Khara and Surpanakha engaged themselves in protecting and serving their brothers who were doing penance. Brahmadeva was highly pleased with their tapas and asked them to wish for any boons other than Amaratva (immortality).

Courtesy: Samskrit Shlokas of Mahabharata from Rashtriya Vidyapeetha, Tirupati.[2]


  1. Pt. Ramnarayan Datt Shastri. Mahabharata, Part 2 (VanaParva, Adhyaya 273 to 292) Hindi Translation. Gorakhpur: Gita Press (Pages 1714 - 1770)
  2. Mahabharata Project - Main Page