Search for Ram’s ring

Ramayana 11 Comments

Published in Speaking Tree, April 10, 2011,

One day, Ram was informed that it was time for him to die. He had no problem with that. He understood that creatures who take birth have to experience death. “Let Yama come to me. It is time for me to return to my heavenly abode, Vaikuntha,” he said. But Yama dared not enter Ayodhya. Yama, the god of death, was afraid of Hanuman who guarded the gates of Ram’s palace and was clear no one would take Ram away from him.

To allow Yama’s entry, it was necessary to distract Hanuman. So Ram dropped his ring into a crack in the palace floor and requested Hanuman to fetch it. Hanuman reduced himself to the size of a beetle and entered the crack only to discover that it was no crack but the entrance to a tunnel that led to Nag-lok, the land of serpents. Hanuman met Vasuki, king of serpents, there and informed him of his mission.

Vasuki took Hanuman to the centre of Nag-lok where stood a mountain of rings! “There you will surely find Ram’s ring,” said Vasuki. Hanuman wondered how he would do that. It was like finding a needle in a haystack. But to his delight, the first ring that he picked up was Ram’s ring. To his astonishment, even the second ring he picked up was Ram’s ring. In fact all the rings that made up the mountain of rings were Ram’s ring. “What is the meaning of this?” he wondered

Vasuki smiled and said, “This world we live in goes through cycles of life and death. Each life cycle of the world is called a kalp. Each kalp is composed of four yugs or quarters. In the second quarter or Tret yug, Ram takes birth in Ayodhya. Then one day his ring falls from earth into the subterranean realm of serpents through a tunnel. A monkey follows it and Ram up there dies. So it has been for hundreds of thousands of kalpas. All these rings testify to that fact. The mountain keeps growing as more rings fall. There is enough space for the rings of the future Ram.”

Hanuman realized that his entry into Nag-lok and his encounter with this mountain of rings was no accident. It was Ram’s way of telling him that he could not stop death from coming. Ram would die. The world would die. But like all things Ram would be reborn each time the world is reborn. So it would be forever.

This cyclical view of life is the essence of Indian thought. This was destroyed by the British and their linear view of life was adopted by everyone, including India’s political parties. That is why everyone wants to locate Ram in history and geography, and fight over dates and addresses.

For the Hindu mind, Ram is timeless and universal and so cannot be fettered to period or place. That is why the day of his birth is celebrated every year as spring gives way to summer. Every year he comes, every year he goes. But everyone has faith that he will keep coming back.

  • Ram

    Interesting mythological story….
    Does it mean hanuman never realized the cyclical view of life? Even after “Mountain of rings” as the story says “….The mountain keeps growing as more rings fall. There is enough space for the rings of the future Ram..…”

    Then, it’s quite understandable with common man (Including India’s political parties).
    Please do keep writing!!

  • abhishek jain

    so TRUE sir… btw when is your next book coming…am talking bout 7 secrets of vishnu..i am really looking forward to read it asap

  • Kaushik Banerjee

    wasn’t Hanuman immortal?

    • Rupesh

      I have same doubt.. if Hanuman was immortal.. come?? confused

      • Devdutt

        You have a choice: study the inner idea or get stuck with the outer vehicle.

        • Kaushik

          Inner idea is fine. But it wasn’t the British who brought in the linear concept. Way before that Jabali told the same to Ram himself and Charvak had given similar principles.
          Nice story anyways!

    • Deep Biswas

      Immortality is not an Indian/Vedic concept. Vampires are immortal, Hanuman was a Chiranjeevi. Chiran means long and Jeevi means living. You might say his lifespan was longer than others.

  • Mayur

    Just wondering sir, though I am not very sure on this. Could you kindly share which Ramayana mentions this? Is it original one or the much later ones. I somehow have feeling Finger ring was more of Roman concept and somewhere exchange of culture it might have entered Indian mythology too. As I said not so sure, could you kindly confirm.

    • Mayur U mean that ancient Indians/Asians/Orientals were not aware of ‘ring’ as an ornament? Remember story of Shakuntala & Dushayant where ‘ring’ played an important role? Pl dont think that Romans had patent on it.

  • Rachith

    I have read this story in your book “Myth=Mithya : A Handbook of Hindu Mythology”. But, my question is when the entire universe is destroyed at the end of a kalp, when Vishnu goes into deep slumber, why dont the rings get destroyed? Kindly correct me if my interpretation is wrong.

  • Deep Biswas

    It has got nothing to do with logic, just silly. Of course everything is destroyed at the end of each Kalpa. Then it all starts again.