Rama's bodily features in numbers


Numbers as Rama's bodily features





      After listening to the glorious story of Rama sung by Hanuman, Sita wanted to convince herself that Hanuman was really a messenger of Rama. So, she asked him how the vanaras and human beings came in contact.  She also asked him to describe the characteristics and bodily features of Rama as well as Lakshmana as seen by him, such as the roopa of the body, his thighs, his arms, and his hands.

      In the Sundarakanda of Ramayana, sarga 35, sloka 17 to 21, Hanuman describes all the body parts of Shri Rama. While interpreting this, the scholars have pointed out that it is not the intention of Valmiki to mean that Hanuman had seen all the body parts of Shri Rama but only whatever is described as an ideal body in the Samudrika Shastra as being present in Shri Rama.

      Hanuman then started explaining details about his eyes, his attributes, his intellect, his fame, his commitment to social structure (based on the 4 castes such as brahmana, khsatriya, vaishya and shudra) and protection of dharma, how he was helping sadhus, and advocating karmas, how proficient he was in the science of archery etc.

     Hanuman, the expert scholar as he was of the samudrikalakshanas  or characteristics and attributes of great men, then proceeded to delineate the bodily features in brief by merely indicating them by means of numbers such as, 4, 3, 14, 5, 10, 2, 6, and 9, knowing full well that Sita would be intimately aware of them.

    Hanuman started his delineation with Rama’s proficiency in the Vedas and Vedangas.  4 and 6 are associated with these in common parlance, 4 representing the Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva Vedas, and 6 representing the Vedangas such as Shiksha (the science of proper articulation and pronunciation), Vyakarana (grammar), Chandas (metre), Niruktam  (explanation of difficult Vedic words), Jyotisha (astronomy or rather the Vedic calendar), and Kalpa (the ceremonies to be performed, according to the various Sutras), and hence Hanuman did not need to have recourse to the significance of the numbers in this respect.

    He then proceeded to describe the bodily features in four slokas, viz. slokas 17 to 21 in the 35th sarga of Sundarakanda of Valmiki Ramayana, which read thus:

The slokas 17 to 21 referred to here read as follows:

     Tristhirah tripralambascha trisamastrishu chonnatah

     Tritaamrastrishu cha snighdho gambhirastrishu nityashah       17


     Chatushkalaschaturlekhaschatushkishkuschatuh samah            18


     Mahoshthahanunaasascha panchasnighdho ashtavamshavaan 19

     Dasapadmo dasabrihattribhirvyaapto dwishuklavaan     

     Shadunnato navtanustribhirvyaapnoti Raghavah                       20

     Satyadharmaparah shreemaansangrahaanugrahe ratah

     Deskaalavibhagagnyah sarvalokapriyamvadah                         21


The significance of the numbers used is as follows:

 3:   Rama is ever firm in 3 limbs, viz. the breast, waist and fist,

       He is long in 3 limbs, viz .the breast, waist and fist,

       He is long in 3 limbs, viz. the eyebrows, arms and soles,

       He is uniform in 3 limbs, viz. locks, testicle and abdomen,

       He was elevated in 3 limbs, viz. breast, rim of navel and lower


       He is coppery in 3 of the navel and the lower abdomen,

       He is coppery in 3 limbs, viz. the rims of his eyes, nails,

           palms and soles,

       He is soft in 3 limbs viz, the lines on his soles, hair and the end of

          the membrane virile,

       He is always deep in 3, viz.  the voice, gait and the navel.

       He has 3 folds in the skin of his neck and belly,

       He is depressed at 3 places, viz.the middle of his soles, the lines on his

            soles and the nipples.


4: He is undersized at 4 places, viz. the neck, membrane virile, the back

      and the shanks.


3: He is endowed with 3 spirals in the hair of his head.


4: He has 4 lines on his forehead, denoting his proficiency in the 4 Vedas.

    He has 4 lines on his forehead, indicating longevity.

    He is 4 cubits high (about 96 inches),

    (In Sloka 19, while interpreting the latter part of the sloka :

scholars have interpreted to say that Shri Rama had a height of four kishkus (that is, 96 inches or 8 feet). If he was 8 feet tall and we take into consideration that he would place his bow on the ground before shooting an arrow, then it would mean that his bow must have been at least 10 feet tall! The word ’aajaanubaahu’ is generally used to mean a tall person with broad shoulders. But the meaning is really that the person has arms long enough for his hands to reach his knees)

    He has 4 pairs of limbs, viz. the cheeks, arms, shanks and knees,

      equally matched.


14: He has 14 other pairs of limbs, viz. the eyebrows, nostrils, eyes, ears, 

       lips, nipples, elbows, wrists, knees, testicles, lions, hands, feet and 

       thighs, equally matched.


4: He has 4 large and sharp teeth at both the ends of his upper and lower


    He walks in 4 gaits, resembling the walks of a lion, a tiger, an elephant

     and a bull.

      (He is endowed with excellent lips, chin and nose).


5: He has 5 glossy limbs, viz. the hair, eyes, teeth, skin and soles.


8: He has 8 long limbs, viz. the arms, fingers and toes, eyes and ears, thighs and shanks.


10: He has 10 lotus-like limbs, viz. the countenance, the mouth, the eyes, the tongue, lips, palate, breasts, nails, the hands and the feet,

      He has 10 ample limbs, viz. the chest, the head, the forehead, the neck,

          the arms, the heart, the mouth, the feet, the back and the ears.


3: He is spread through by reason of 3, viz. splendour, renown and glory.


2: He is doubly pure, on the father’ side and mother’s side.


6: He is elevated in six limbs, viz. the flanks, the abdomen, the breast, the

        nose, the shoulders and the forehead.


9: He is small, thin, fine or sharp in 9, viz. the hair, the moustache and the

       beard, nails, the hair on the body, the skin, the finger-joints, the

       membrane virile, acumen and perception.


3: He pursues religious merit, worldly riches and the sensuous delight in

      3 periods, viz. the forenoon, midday and afternoon.


     It will thus be seen that Hanuman uses numbers to describe in detail the appearance of Rama, and the various characteristics and qualities of Rama. Instead of repeating the same in regard to Lakshmana, he merely indicates that it would apply equally to Lakshmana as well.

    It may be mentioned here that numbers, specially, powers of ten with special names, appear at other places also in the Valmeeki Ramayana, e.g. Tara’s description of the strength of Rama’s army, as overheard by her, Sugreeva’s description of the strength of his army of vanaras and bears, and the description of the strength of Rama’s army  by Ravana’s spy.  This shows the grandeur of mathematics as it was in common parlance during the Ramayana period.