[Advaita-l] "Dog story" in the Ramayana

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at yahoo.com
Fri Dec 10 17:53:25 CST 2004

I'm trying to locate the "Dog story" in the Ramayana, and came across a
reference to it online at
http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=53310 .

If anyone has a ready reference of the Ramayana, please let me know if
the version of the story that follows below is accurate. Thanks.

The reason I believe the translation to be incomplete is that it does
not explain why a person who serves others in a religious capacity (and
performs his dharma immaculately to boot), had to be reborn as a dog! 

This is from the Uttara Kanda and is a section believed to be a later
interpolation. I have brought up dogs and dog stories in ancient Indian
epics, because this Ramayana story has clear current interest. 

After returning to Ayodhya, Rama began to rule. Vashishtha, other sages
and advisers and ministers helped him rule well. Every day, Lakshmana’s
job was to go outside the court, to check and see if there was anyone
with a complaint. Normally, there weren’t any such complainants. Rama’s
rule was such that there wasn’t any disease. The earth yielded plenty
of food. Evil disappeared, fearing the king’s wrath. Such was Rama’s
rule that there was no evil at all. 

On one such day, Lakshmana found that there was no one outside the
court. “Go back and look again,” said Rama. Lakshmana returned to the
main gate and found a dog barking away. “What do you want?” Lakshmana
asked the dog. “If you have something to tell the king, come with me”.
“I can’t come with you,” said the dog. “Dogs are not allowed inside
temples, palaces and the houses of Brahmins. Those are the residing
places of gods like Agni, Indra, Surya and Vayu. We aren’t allowed

But Rama gave special permission to the dog to approach the court. The
dog had marks of a beating on its head. 

“What is your problem, dog?” 

Rama asked. “A Brahmin named Sarvarthasiddha was looking for alms and
has beaten me without any provocation,” replied the dog. 

On Rama’s orders, the Brahmin was summoned. “Why have you beaten this
dog?” asked Rama. “I was hungry and was roaming around, looking for
alms,” replied the Brahmin. “This dog was on the road, blocking my way.
I asked him to move, but he didn’t. So I beat him,” replied
Sarvarthasiddha. “I’m guilty. Please punish me. If I am punished, I
will no longer have to fear about going to hell”. 

Rama consulted his advisers and ministers like Bhrigu, Angirasa, Kutsa,
Kashyapa and Vashishtha. Their advice was unanimous. According to the
shastras, a Brahmin shouldn’t be punished. 

“But you have promised,” said the dog. “You promised to set right my
complaint. Please make this Brahmin the kulapati of Kalanjara”. 

Strictly speaking, a kulapati was a small ruler. His job was to feed
ten thousand sages and study under them. Kalinjara or Kalanjara is in
the Bundelkhand region. Anyway, this seemed fair enough, because
Sarvarthasiddha wasn’t exactly being punished. He was sent off to
Kalanjara, riding on an elephant. 

“You have given him a boon instead of punishing him,” remarked the
ministers. “Not quite,” responded Rama. “Ask this dog”. On Rama’s
instructions, the dog related his story. 

“I used to be the kulapati of Kalanjara,” said the dog. “I served gods
and Brahmins and spent my time ensuring everyone’s welfare. I ate after
everyone else had eaten. I shared my property with everyone else. But
having been a kulapati, I am now destined to this dog’s life. That
Brahmin is cruel and quick to anger. He will now become a kulapati and
the next forty nine of his descendants will spend their lives in hell.
No one should accept the post of a kulapati. If you want to make
certain that an individual and his friends, sons and animals go to
hell, make him a kulapati”. 

Having related his story, the dog went off to the holy city of
Varanasi, resolving to starve himself to death there and thus perform

The writer of the article then speculates, "The Ramayana doesn’t
explain further. Perhaps, addiction to power and wealth corrupted the
kulapati system, so that becoming a kulapati became a curse rather than
a boon. What better statement of power corrupting? Or of
quasi-government functionaries becoming corrupt? Nothing has changed in
thousands of years. Although kulapati was a quasi-government
functionary, perhaps I should also say that in the present university
system, the vice-chancellor’s post is translated as kulapati. This dog
was really clever. And it was an ordinary dog, not Dharma disguised as


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