urmila

Lakshman’s wife goes to sleep

Ramayana 34 Comments

 

Published in Devlok, Sunday Midday, Nov. 20, 2011

 

Soon after his birth, Lakshman kept crying until he was placed next to Ram. Since that day he was always beside Ram, accompanying him to protect Vishwamitra’s yagna and following him into exile in the forest. Such was his devotion that he refused to take his wife along with him to the forest. He even refused to sleep for 14 years so that he could serve his brother day and night.

Lakshman’s wife, Urmila, wanted to follow her husband to the forest as Sita had followed Ram but Lakshman begged her to stay back saying, “I will be busy taking care of Ram and Sita and will have not time for you. Help me by staying back so that I do not have to feel guilty or anxious about your wellbeing.” So Urmila stayed back, reluctantly, wondering how she could help her husband help Ram.

On the first night in the forest, Lakshman kept watch while Ram and Sita went to sleep. That is when Nidra, the goddess of sleep, approached him. He begged the goddess to leave him alone for fourteen years so that he could guard his brother and sister-in-law night and day. The goddess, impressed by his act of filial devotion, agreed. But the law of nature demanded that someone bear the burden of Lakshman’s share of sleep. “Go to my wife, Urmila, and inform her of the situation,” said Lakshman. Nidra went to Urmila. Urmila bowed her head and replied, “Give me my husband’s share of sleep for fourteen years so that he can stay awake all that time without any fatigue.” So it came to pass that Urmila slept for fourteen years night and day while her husband stayed awake in the service of Ram and Sita.

This had an impact in the war against Ravana. Ravana’s mighty son, Meghnadh, was invincible. Only a man who had not slept for 14 years could defeat him. Thus Lakshman was able to kill him, all thanks to Urmila.

The story of Urmila comes from folk Ramayanas or Ram-kathas and is not part of Valmiki’s Sanskrit narrative or Tulsi’s Avadhi narrative. But the way the story is presented, especially in the Ram Kathas of South India, is even more interesting. It reminds us how vast and imaginative and provocative the tradition of Ramayana is in India, and how we are often deprived of this variety in our quest for uniformity.

After Ram defeats Ravan, rescues Sita and returns to Ayodhya, the day of Ram’s coronation dawns. As the hymns were being chanted and the crown is brought before Ram, Lakshman started to laugh, startling everyone.

Everyone wondered why was Lakshman laughing: who was he mocking? Every person in the court – Ram and Sita included – was consumed by doubts and guilt, for each was embarrassed of some misdeed in their life. Each one remembered an event in their life, which they were not particularly proud of, and felt Lakshman was laughing at them.

Finally someone asked Lakshman why he was laughing and he replied, “I have waited for this moment for the past 14 years and just when I am about to witness Ram being crowned king, the goddess of sleep, Nidra, reminds me of our agreement 14 years ago, and demands that I submit to her this very moment, and go to sleep and let Urmila awaken. I find the irony of the situation hilarious.” So Lakshman dozed and Urmila woke up to see Ram crowned king, and everyone heaved a sigh of relief.

 

  • Kunal

    Too Good Sir, Thankx for sharing such things …

  • Devdutt ji,

    I sometimes wonder how & why so many versions of Ramayana exist. Each has its own take on the epic though the major story line stands still.

    Slightly offtopic. Some argue that, “Valmiki was gifted with omnivision, so that he can pen down the epic as-is it happened”. Is it true?

    If true? So, can we consider the valmiki ramayana as the original of the epic?

    • Neeraj Kumar

      these are only imaginative stories and not true, the truth is only written by maharishi Valmiki, had this been true valmiki ji would have mentioned it. Though it(that a person doesnot sleep for 14 yrs) can be possible through ब्रह्मचर्य (celibacy) or huttyoga, but otherwise if you work hard throughout the day your body will demand at least an hour of sleep minimum, this is again impossible that your share of sleep is given to some body else, who is Nidra goddess?? there is no mention of such goddess anywhere in any of religious texts.

      • Devdutt

        I guess YOU really know THE truth that no wise man of India ever claims to know in their humility

      • Nidra Goddess also known as “Urmyah Devi” or “Urmayamma Thalli”, the Godess of the Night Skies and helps people sleep safely.
        P.S: There many mentions of the Nidra (Sleep) Goddess throughout the Vedas. Its not possible to read and interpret all the versions of Vedas and “religious texts”, you learn about things like this when you explore various versions.

  • I am in love with your writing!

  • awesome website.. interesting read!

  • Rohini

    Devdutta,

    Kudos for continually bringing these stories to us! Can you please quote your sources exactly, so that we may follow up for our own reading. You’ve mentioned them briefly in the text, but specifics would help. Where does one find these Ram- kathas?I’m writing a dissertation, and the sources would be useful.

    Thanks, Rohini

  • Vishwesh Bhatia

    Thanks a lot for taking this initiative, I remember my grandfather telling me these stories.. I used to really cherish them.. Because of you I believe I may be able to reconnect to our scriptures.. I have myself tried reading Gita but somewhere I get lost and m unable to make the connection with the present world..
    I work in Paris, and it was comforting to find your book on amazon.fr.. looking forward to read your book “Jaya”.. and well.. I work for Sanofi too.. :)

  • Mohan

    Very interesting.

  • Nitin Jain

    Dear Devduttji,
    I have been reading your articles for a very long time and its an absolute delight reading your articles which are very informative.
    I must mention one point to you thought, when someone comments on your article which is contradicting your say, you seem to become rude in your replies, why not just ignore them instead of replying rudely? Everyone has a different point of view.
    Everything else is awesome, continue your good work!
    One more thing your show Shashtrath was very good, it was fun watching it.

  • Sneha D

    Dear Devduttji, your intellect is an absolute delight to the modern curious brains. Its just been few days since I came across your work and I am addicted to know more and more. I stay in UK and doesn’t have access to Amazon books written by you as it’s limited to USA. Could you please tell us where to get your books in UK and also, if you have any CD’s made for the same. Awaiting your response eagerly. Thank you so much. Sneha.

  • Nitin

    It is clear example of “Behind every successful man, there is a woman” or you can say “Behind every man with sleepless nights, there is a happily dozing woman”

  • Kishor Kunal

    Sir I this is true Knowledgeable site
    thanks for sharing this valuable knowladge

  • Ram

    Sir

    Nice Information keep collecting more sir

  • Arun Jain

    Very informative, Thanks

  • Veda

    I have read the same content somewhere else in your writing.
    But the blow part is totally new and gives a great message on the way human mind thinks, including Lord Ram!
    “Each one remembered an event in their life, which they were not particularly proud of…”

    [..]
    Everyone wondered why was Lakshman laughing: who was he mocking? Every person in the court – Ram and Sita included – was consumed by doubts and guilt, for each was embarrassed of some misdeed in their life. Each one remembered an event in their life, which they were not particularly proud of, and felt Lakshman was laughing at them.
    [..]

  • Respected Devdutt ji,

    When I read you articles in the midest of night, I feel very much relaxed……Happy…………….

    Bye Sir

  • Sir read ur article,
    actually i have been thinking of writing something about the same. but after reading your article now i have a few doubts,

    what i ever knew was urmila stayed back and served her in-laws while lakshman was with ram in his exile.
    so can you please let me know what exactly the truth is.
    thanks :)

  • Namste Devduttji,

    Loved the post, very interesting, informative and invoking. Interesting and Informative because of the nature of topic and Invoking because of your way of writing them.

    Dhanywaad

  • Suneet

    Devdutt,

    I chanced upon this site today looking for some details on ‘Urmila’s Viraha Vedana’ and to put it mildly, was taken aback by this article. A polar opposite of what we’ve read / heard from elders that –
    Urmila was asked by Laxman to look after mother Kaushalya just as he will be serving his brother Ram during exile. And that she did it with greatest devotion one could have ever seen, bearing the pain of being away from beloved one (‘viraha vedana’) for 14 yrs while Laxmana was in exile.

    Can you share your source for our reading up as well. This would definitely be an interesting read, turning our beliefs upside down.

  • javed sayed

    how society must behave with handicapped person, schizophrenia person, old men & women.please describe.

  • Shashikant

    thanks for this story….
    can you please tell your opinion about KARNA of mahabharata, please.

  • Dr. V.K.Pandey

    Dear Devduttji

    I am a great fan of you, your writing, your way of explaining,your in depth knowledge of Indian Myths.

    You are true ambassador of India. All the best and wish you a very HAPPY NEW YEAR-2012.
    regards

    Dr.V.K.Pandey
    New Delhi

  • Vibha

    I am amazed….!!! How beautifully you can write these stories..
    and so easily you can relate this with our day to day life…
    I have read the Valmiki Ramayan & Tulsi Ramayan as a part of religious and inherited procedure, but never tried this angle.
    I don’t have any point to disagree with your stories. According to me it does not matter what exact is the reason for Urmila to stay back, important is the beauty of Ram Katha. Guiding us at each stage of life.
    Thank you very much for showing this side of Ram Katha.

  • Never brought to notice the importance of Lakshman’s role in the Ramayana. Very nicely written story with the modern-day interpretation.

  • Sonal Raghavan

    Very interesting ! I am curious to know what were the people in court so guilty about when lakshman laughed? That would be an interesting read!

  • Namita Sangrai

    really nice , i was not aware of this story at all………………….

  • This is the actual story (of Urmila) that I’ve heard from my elders, however its the first time that I’ve read about Lakshman’s laugh at the coronation. Feminists spin the story of Lakshmana and Urmila in the most vicious manner and talk about how Lakshman ignored Urmila and never bid her good-bye. The one that I’ve heard from many different elders is that, Urmila asks Lakshman to stay and he begs her to stay in the castle for her safety and wellbeing, and in turn he can protect Ram & Sita and get them back home to resume his role as a Prince/King of Ayodhya and its people. (The famed Rama Rajya)

  • Deepti Dani

    Hello Sir, I am an ardent fan of the Ramayana and in that too Lakshman is my favourite character. I often find that he is not given his due credit (maybe that comes from my restricted access to the Ramayan only via the various television serials). I came to this site to see your view on the story of Lakshman and Urmila. I did not know this story of sleep. Till now, I only knew that not only Lakshman forbade her to accompany him, but he also forbade her from shedding tears when he was away. All in all, no matter what people say, Urmila’s sacrifice cannot go unnoticed.

  • govindarajulu – Kasturi

    Salaams to you Shri Devdutt

    In your own erudite style you have brought out the role of Urmila in Ramayana
    Simply great.

    Thanks and good luck

    Kasturi G

  • Swagt Darakh

    Beautifully Written.. Thank you.

  • Swagt Darakh

    We never come to know unsung heroes of our epics….what a beautiful write-up it is.

  • Deepak

    Just saw this article….as i was watching Ramayana the serial where this episode appears…my comment:
    1. It is illogical.. A man needs to sleep for 8 hours not 12. So urmila overslept if she slept for 14 years… Two times more than laxman was expected too.
    2 it belittles laxmans resolve to serve….a lot of people sleep only for 5 hours…a day..this is normal for them. A God like Laxman could have resolved and overcome sleep without this bargain…..an unfair one at that.
    3 these stories need to be placed on your site with caution ….if its not in Valmiki or Tulsidas Ramyan….pl avoid this story…you are supposed to be more authentic than populist…mere disclaimer wont do Sir
    Warm regards