Kusa, Lava

This page is based on the Balakanda and the Uttarakanda of the Valmiki Ramayanam (Gita Press Critical Edition)

Contents :

  1. Introduction : Exiled from Ayodhya while In their mother’s womb
  2. Birth in Valmiki’s Asrama (Analysis of Location (Bithoor, near Kanpur))
  3. Learning the Ramayanam
  4. Singing the Ramayanam in Ayodhya
  5. Singing the Ramayanam in Ayodhya in Sri Rama’s presence
  6. Rama sends for Sita, to take an oath of chastity
  7. Valmiki swears to Sita’s purity
  8. Sita takes the oath of purity and simultaneously leaves Sri Rama
  9. Kusasthali, Dwaraka, Kosala,Chattisgarh

Exiled from Ayodhya while In their mother’s womb:

Kusa and Lava were the sons of Sri Rama and Sita Devi. They were not born in a palace, either at Ayodhya or at Mithila. They were born in Valmiki Maharshi’s Asrama. Their father was so bound to the concept of duty to the citizens of Ayodhya, that he sent their pure and lovely pregnant mother away to stay in the Asrama of Sri Valmiki Maharshi. The people of Ayodhya were not convinced by the reports of Sri Rama, Lakshmana and the Vanaras, that Sita had proved her chastity in an AgniPariksha. They were more convinced of Ravana‘s wickedness, than they were convinced of Sita’s purity and her love for Sri Rama. Their suspicion resulted in the sacrifice of Sri Rama’s family’s life and caused much grief to Sita Devi. It is so hard for a pure-minded person to be suspected of impurity by anyone. It is so hard for an innocent person to bear a punishment intended to correct the guilty. This part of the story is told in the Uttarakanda which is a kind of epilogue  after the 6 main kandas of the Valmiki Ramayanam.

Birth in Valmiki’s Asrama:

Satrughna was at Valmiki Ashram at the same time as Lava Kusa were born! Sita Devi delivered two charming boys (twins) in the asram. Valmiki named them Kusa and Lava after the grasses with which the children were purified. Satrughna went to see the children, his nephews and to see his elder brother’s wife, vadina (bhabhi, attige) Sitamma. He told her, “Oh mother, you have delivered twins!”.  That night was Sravana Pournima.  Satrughna was at Valmiki Ashram at the same time as Lava Kusa were born! Please go to the end of this article for an analysis of the birth place of Lava, Kusa.

The fourth sarga of the balakanda begins with Valmiki having completed the composition of the 6 kandas (24000 verses and 500 sargas) of the Valmiki ramayana and the Uttarakanda besides. Remember that some of the events of the Uttarakanda had not yet taken place. It is said in the balakanda that Valmiki knew them in advance, some people think he (or his student) added those bits in afterwards. The balakanda is a bit like the prologue. It gives two summaries of the Ramayanam, one in the words of Narada Maharshi and another in the words of Valmiki himself. It describes the meeting of Brahma with Valmiki and it describes the first verse uttered by Valmiki in grief to his student  Bharadwaja.

Learning the Ramayanam:

At the beginning of the 4th sarga we have Valmiki wondering who had the memory necessary to remember and recite the entire Ramayanam. At that time, Kusa and Lava came forward to touch his feet and take his blessings. Valmiki knew of their devotion and their wonderful musical talent and their Vedic expertise. So he chose them and taught them his brand new composition.

I wonder whether he took about 7 years to compose the “Paulastya Vadha” at the rate of 100 verses a day? (It is said that Viswanatha Satyanarayana of the 20th century, composed a 100 verses a day. I think he must have begun his composition after Sita Devi came to his asramam. Just as Narada and Brahma had filled him in on some of the details of what happened, I think Sita Devi herself told him many parts of the itihasa.

The twin brothers Kusa and Lava who were endowed with sweet voice and tone, possessed auspicious form, beauty and they were gandharvas in human form. They looked like the two reflected images of the original image of Rama. The contents of this epic, apart from being committed to memory, are sweet and suitable for verbal recitation as well as singing. This charming and attractive poem is fit to be adopted to the three measures of time and timed to stringed instruments. This epic possesses seven notes together with various moods-amorous, compassionate, humourous, courageous, fearful and also violent. These two princes blameless, disciplined and well versed, committed to memory the whole epic and chanted as instructed in the assembly of rishis, brahmins and saints.” from http://valmiki.iitk.ac.in/index.php?id=translation

One day, Kusa and Lava gave a wonderful presentation at the asramam. The sages were overcome with the beauty of the composition and the melody of the rendition. Tears flowed out of their eyes. They had a great desire to gift the boys something. But what do asramavasis possess? One gave them a water pitcher. Another gave them a black deer skin. One gave them a valkala (bark garment) and yet another gave them a sacred thread. One gave them a string for binding matted hair and one more a cord for binding wood. And so on they showered them with such gifts as they possessed and they praised the itihasa kavya and the singers and they blessed them.

Singing the Ramayanam in Ayodhya :

Kusa and Lava wandered around the lanes of Ayodhya singing the beautiful song, when one day, Sri Rama saw them and invited them to sing in the palace…... Then the balakanda launches into a description of Ayodhya and the story of Sri Rama begins… . What we will do now, is leave off the prologue (balakanda) and jump to the epilogue (uttarakanda), so we know what happened to Lava and Kusa. The 91st sarga of the Uttarakanda describes Sri Rama’s preparation for the Aswamedha Yajna. And in the 93rd Sarga, we find Valmiki instructing Kusa and Lava on how and where to sing the Ramayanam in Ayodhya…. and we will resume our story there…

While the great Aswamedha Yajna was going on, Valmiki came there with Kusa and Lava. He told them to sing Ramayanam in the huts of sages, in th dwellings of the Brahmanas, in the side-streets and in the main roads and in the rajagrhas where the kings were staying. He asked them to eat good fruit and roots so as not to be tired and sing the Ramayanam without deviating from the Ragam. And if Sri Rama were to call them then they should perform to the best of their ability. They were to sing 20 sargas a day. They were not to be greedy for wealth and if Sri Rama were to offer them riches, they should say should say that dwellers of hermitages, who lived but on fruits and roots, had no need of money. And if Rama were to ask them about their father, then they should say that they were disciples of Valmiki. They were to respect the King as  a Father, for a ‘King is the father of his subjects’. Thus did Valmiki, Praaceta (the son of Praceta, (Varuna)), advise the young twins. The young twins slept the happy sleep of anticipation that night, prepared to go singing the next morning.

Singing the Ramayanam in Ayodhya in Sri Rama’s presence :

94th Sarga of Uttarakanda, Valmiki Ramayana (Gita Press Critical Edition): The next morning, the twins woke up early, took their bath and offered into the fire, whatever had to be offered and left for the streets of Ayodhya on their singing spree. Sri Rama heard them and was amazed. He invited the  boys to come and sing in the august assembly of rishis, kings  and evey manner of experts. The rishis kept staring at the boys and marking their exact facial and bodily resemblance to Sri Rama and said that they were like mirror reflections of Sri Rama himself. After the 20 sargas of the day were sung, Sri Rama ordered that they be gifted 18000 golden coins. Kusa and Lava turned down the gifts as they had been instructed by Valmiki. This aroused Rama’s curiosity. (Since brahmans did  accept gifts from kings as a general rule, whether as a fee for the yajnas or for some other purpose). So Sri Rama enquired as to the composer of the Ramayanam and his purpose in creating this kavya – itihasa. The children told him that the composer was Valmiki (Bhargava) and that he had created 24000 verses with 500 sargas and a hundred stories, to immortalize the deeds of Sri Rama. They suggested to Rama that he and his brothers could listen to the Ramayanam in the time intervals between their work (of the yajna and such.) Sri Rama agreed and his sons then went back to Valmiki.

Rama sends for Sita, to take an oath of chastity:

95th Sarga of Uttarakanda, Valmiki Ramayana (Gita Press Critical Edition): For the next few days, Rama and his brothers, heard the Ramayanam joyfully from the boys and Rama gathered from the song that the boys Kusa and Lava, were actually the sons of Sita. He then asked his envoys to take his message to Valmiki and ask whether Maithili, the daughter of Janaka was willing to swear about her purity in full assembly so that his name too would be cleared of blemish.The envoys gladly went to Valmiki with the message and he readily agreed as ‘a Husband is the Daivatam (God) for his wife’. Sri Rama announced to a glad assembly that the oath taking would take place next day and dismissed it.

There is a very popular version not present in this Valmiki Ramayanam where the boys discover at the palace that Sita is no longer with Rama and come back very angry with him. They do not know that Vaidehi, their mother and Sita are the same person. So they capture Sri Rama’s aswamedha horse, battle him and cause him to swoon. Sita entering the Earth takes place just outside the Valmiki Asramam and the boys are re-united with their father. There is a tree in Chitwan park (Nepal) near one of the Valmiki Asrama locations, to which the twins ‘tied the aswamedha horse’.

Valmiki swears to Sita’s purity:

96th Sarga of Uttarakanda, Valmiki Ramayana (Gita Press Critical Edition): The next morning, near the Yajnasala, Sri Rama saw that Vasistha, Vamadeva,  Jabali, Kaasyapa (the son of Kasyapa), Viswamitra, Dirghatama, Durvasa, Pulastya (Brahma’s son, Ravana’s grandfather), Sakthi (Parasara’s father, Vyasa’s grandfather), Bhargava (Bhrgu’s son – Sukra or his brother), Vamana (Trivikrama), Markandeya, Maudgalya, Garga, Cyavana (Bhrgu’s son), Satananda (Gautama’s son), Bharadwaja, Agniputra, Narada, Parvata and Gautama were present along with many Rakshasas (from Vibhishana’s side)  and Vanaras. People of the 4 varnas were present. Then when all of them were quiet, Valmiki came there bringing with him Sita Devi. Sita followed Valmiki with a downcast face, folded hands and tears flowing from her eyes. While some were so glad to see Sita, others broke into lament sensing her sorrow.  Some said Sadhu Rama (Well done! Rama!) and others said Sadhu! Sita!  Then Valmiki spoke and took an oath on behalf of Sita. “O Rama! If Sita is pure, only then let me get the fruits of my austerities. I who am the 10th son of Praceta (Varuna), who am sinless and truthful am telling you that Sita is pure and guiltless and that these boys Kusa and Lava are your very own sons!  The very elements both gross (sthoola) and subtle (sookshma) of which Sita is made are the purest. I know that you forsook her even though you knew she was chaste for the fear of public censure.

Sita takes the oath of purity and simultaneously leaves Sri Rama :

97th Sarga of Uttarakanda, Valmiki Ramayana (Gita Press Critical Edition): Sri Rama said, ” I know she is pure and she has already taken an oath in front of the Devas. I am assured by your words. I know that Kusa and Lava are my sons. But the public censure (by the people of Ayodhya) is great. Let her chastity be acknowledged by the people”. Brahma, the Adityas, Vasus, Rudras, Visvedevas, Maruts, Sadhyas, Devas, Rshis, Nagas, Suparnas and Siddhas all reached there at this time. Seeing them, Sri Rama said, “I have faith due to the words of Valmiki, may my love exist for pure Sita in this world!”

A divine fragrance filled the air, as it used to in Krutayuga, and made everyone happy. Then Sita Devi herself spoke,” Oh Madhavi! I have never even thought of anyone ther than Sri Rama and have worshipped him in thought, speech and action. I have never known anyone other than Sri Rama. Therefore Oh Madhavi, I deserve to be  given ‘Vivara’.

Then a wonderful Simhasanam arose out of the earth, carried by very powerful Nagas, wearing divine ornaments. Dharani Devi (the earth) then held the arms of Sita and made her sit next to her. They were showered with flowers and they entered the Rasatala to loud acclaims of Sadhu! Sadhu!

Sri Rama was grief-stricken on losing the perfect wife, Sita Devi, but he accepted his sons back. In the 107th sarga of the Uttarakanda, we learn that when Sri Rama decided to leave for Swarga, he crowned the princes Kusa as the king of Dakshina Kosala and Lava as the king of Uttara Kosala. Dakshina Kosala is modern day Chhattisgarh, with a higher than avergae percentage of tribals when compared with the rest of India. Click this link for information about Chattisgarh, once ruled by King Kusa, the son of Sri Rama and Sita Devi, the grandson of Kausalya and Dasaratha.

We also hear from other sources that Kusa established the city of Kusasthali. We learn that Raivata was the king of Kusasthali and that Sri Krishna built Dwaraka on Kusasthali.

The Naga Tribes believe to worship the God of Earthquake, who according to them is the supreme creator of earth out of water. (Source)

Lava Kusa were born at Kanpur :

That night Satrughna was on his way from Ayodhya to Mathura to kill Lavanasura. The distance by the modern route is under 600 km via Lucknow and it takes 8-9 hours by road. In those days, Satrughna rested for 2 nights on the way from Ayodhya to Valmiki’s Asrama and rested for 7 nights on the way from Valmiki’s Asrama to Cyavana’s Asrama near Mathura. Of all the places reputed to be the birth place of Lava and Kusa, Kanpur best fits the bill. Modern route road distance from Ayodhya to Kanpur is under 250 km. Modern route road distance from Kanpur to Mathura is under 350 km.

Road Route From Ayodhya to Mathura
Road Route From Ayodhya to Mathura

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“Bithoor is a centre of Hindu pilgrimage near Kanpur, in Uttar Pradesh, India…., can be traced back to ancient times. Bithoor is located about 20 km upstream of the river from the city and is approximately 10 km from the IIT Kanpur Campus. The site at Bithoor is the Valmiki Ashram, where queen Seeta, on being exiled by King Ramachandra of Ayodhya, spent her days in seclusion at the ashram bringing up her twin sons Lava and Kush.” (See Also : Distances coverable on foot)


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