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Title: Sugriva  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Rumā, Rakshasa, Hanuman, Ramayana, Kishkindha
Collection: Animals in Religion, Vanara in the Ramayana
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Maharaja Sugriva
Maharaja Sugriva
Rama and Lakshamana confer with Sugriva.
Predecessor Vali
Successor Angada
Consort Rumā, Tara
House Vanara
Dynasty Vanara
Father garu

In the Hindu epic Ramayana, Sugriva (Sanskrit: सुग्रीव, lit. beautiful necked) was the younger brother of Vali, whom he succeeded as ruler of the vanara or monkey kingdom Kishkindha. Rumā was his wife. He was the son of Surya, the Hindu deity of the sun. As king of the monkeys, Sugriva aided Rama in his quest to liberate his wife Sita from captivity at the hands of the Rakshasa king Ravana. This aid is referred to as Sugrivajne (Sugriva pledge).

He is also known as Javanese: Sugriwa, rtgsSu-khrip, Lao: Sugeep, Khmer: Sukhreeb, Creole: Soogrim, Lao: Sangkip, Tamil: Cukkirivan, Burmese: Thugyeik, Sugreeva or Sugreev and Khmer: សុគ្រីព .


  • The story of Sugriva 1
    • Sugriva and Vali have a disagreement 1.1
    • Sugriva makes an alliance 1.2
    • Rama kills Vali; Sugriva takes over the vaanara kingdom 1.3
    • Tara convinces Sugriva to help Rama to conquer Lanka and to rescue Sita 1.4
  • Sugriva and his fight with Lava & Kusha 2
  • Jain Version 3
  • Artistic and folkloric depictions of Sugriva 4
  • Footnotes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

The story of Sugriva

The story of Sugriva is part of the Ramayana and, in an abbreviated version, is also present in the Mahabharata.

Sugriva and Vali have a disagreement

Rama Meets Sugreeva

Vali ruled the kingdom of Kishkindha; his subjects were the vanaras, or monkeys. Tara was his wife. One day, a raging demon by the name of Maayaavi came to the gates of the capital and challenged Vali to a fight. Vali accepted the challenge, but when he sallied forth, the demon fled in terror into a deep cave. Vali entered the cave in pursuit of the demon, telling Sugriva to wait outside. When Vali did not return, and upon hearing demonic shouts in the cave and seeing blood oozing from its mouth, Sugriva concluded that his brother had been killed. With a heavy heart, Sugriva rolled a boulder to seal the cave's opening, returned to Kishkindha, and assumed kingship over the vanaras. Vali, however, ultimately prevailed in his combat with the demon and returned home. Seeing Sugriva acting as king, he concluded that his brother had betrayed him. Though Sugriva humbly attempted to explain himself, Vali would not listen. As a result, Sugriva was ostracized from the kingdom, Vali forcibly took Sugriva's main wife, Rumā, and the brothers became bitter enemies.[1] Sugriva then goes on to live on Rishyamukh as it is the only place on earth that Vali cannot tread on. Vali was previously cursed by Sage Matang and hence cannot lay a foot on this piece of land. Doing so would cause his death.

Sugriva makes an alliance

Rama and Lakshmana Meet Sugriva at Matanga’s Hermitage

In exile, Sugriva made the acquaintance of Rama, the Avatar of Vishnu, who was on a quest to rescue his wife Sita from the demon Ravana, king of the Rakshasas. Rama promised Sugriva that he would kill Vali and would reinstate Sugriva as the king of the monkeys. Sugriva, in turn, promised to help Rama with his quest.[2]

Rama kills Vali; Sugriva takes over the vaanara kingdom

Killing of Vali Monkey

Together, Sugriva and Rama went to seek out Vali. While Rama stood back, Sugriva shouted a challenge, and dared him to battle. The brothers rushed at each other, fighting with trees and stones, with fists, nails and teeth. They were evenly matched and indistinguishable to the observer, until Sugriva's counsellor Hanuman stepped forward and placed a garland of flowers around Sugriva's neck. It was then that Rama emerged with his bow and drove an arrow through Vali's heart. When Vali had expired, Sugriva reclaimed the monkey kingdom, took back Vali's (and his former) wife, Rumā, and took over Vali's main wife, Tara, who became empress, and her son by Vali, Angada, who became crown prince.[3]

Tara convinces Sugriva to help Rama to conquer Lanka and to rescue Sita

Tara and Sugriva with Lakshmana.

When Rama decided to move against Lanka, he was angered because Sugriva spent his time carousing and seemed to forget his pledge to help Rama. Rama's brother, Lakshmana, was about to destroy the monkey kingdom and kill Sugriva. It was only after the diplomatic intervention of Tara that Lakshmana was pacified. Then through Tara's efforts Sugriva and Rama were reconciled. Sugriva sent his trusted advisor Hanuman to determine Sita's whereabouts. Hanuman's finding was that Ravana was holding Sita captive in his island fortress of Lanka. Then Sugriva placed his army of monkeys at Rama's disposal. The army crossed into Lanka by means of a specially erected bridge and laid siege to Ravana's citadel. After some hard fighting, the monkeys prevailed over the demons, Rama slew Ravana, and Sita was liberated.[4]

During the battle, Sugriva almost came to a violent death when he decided to take on the Rakshasa Kumbhakarna, a brother of Ravana. Seeing the demon in the middle of the fray, Sugriva attacked him with the trunk of a sala tree. The tree, however, merely broke over the demon's head. Kumbhakarna then seized Sugriva and dragged him off, and no doubt would have killed him but for the timely intervention of Rama's brother Lakshmana.[5]

Sugriva and his fight with Lava & Kusha

Sugreeva fight with Ravana

On Lakshmana’s request and after Guru Vasistha’s approval Rama plans to do Ashvamedha Yagya. At this auspicious occasion he calls Sugriva along with Angada, Nala, Neela, Jambavantha and Hanuman to come to Ayodhya. Rama greets and hugs Sugriva, Jambavantha and others on their arrival to Ayodhya.

The Yagya horse was captured by Lava and Kusha brothers. In the Rama’s army the news spreads that two muni kumara’s has captured the Yagya’s horse. Shatrughana walks and fights with Lava and he was defeated by Lava. Then Lakshamana comes and he was also defeated by Lava. Then Bharata asks Rama to give him the permission to go to set horse free from both muni Kumara. Sugriva and Hanumana also request Rama to permit them to go along with Bharata in the battle. Lava and Kusha defeat Bharata and Sugriva and take Hanumana as a prisoner. Hanumana was the only servant to Rama that knew that Lava and Kush were the sons of his master & Sita and thus allowed himself to be imprisoned by his master's sons.[6]

Jain Version

According to Jain texts, Sugriva took Jain Diksha and attained Moksha from Mangi-Tungi.[7]

Artistic and folkloric depictions of Sugriva

This tympanum from the Khmer temple of Banteay Srei depicts Sugriva fighting with his brother Bali. To the right, Rama is poised to shoot an arrow at Vali.
  • The combat of Sugriva with his brother Vali was a favorite motif of the Khmer sculptors contributing to the Angkorian temples and monuments near Siem Reap in Cambodia.
    • A detailed and moving tympanum at the 10th century Hindu temple of Banteay Srei depicts the combat of the brothers, as well as Rama's intervention and Vali's death in the arms of another monkey.
    • A bas-relief at the 12th-century temple of Angkor Wat shows the fight between the brothers, the arrival of Rama, and Vali lying on his death-bed, mourned by many other monkeys. Another scene shows Sugriva and Rama entering into their alliance. A large bas-relief depicts the Battle of Lanka between Rama and Sugriva's army of monkeys and Ravana's army of Rakshasas.
    • The fight between Vali and Sugriva is also represented at the lesser-known 13th century Angkorian temple of Preah Pithu.


  1. ^ Ramayana of Valmiki, Book IV, Canto 9–10.
  2. ^ Ramayana of Valmiki, Book IV, Canto 8, 10; Mahabharata, Book III: Varna Parva, Section 278.
  3. ^ Ramayana of Valmiki, Book IV, Canto 11 ff.; Mahabharata, Book III: Varna Parva, Section 278.
  4. ^ Mahabharata, Book III: Varna Parva, Section 280 ff; The Ramayana. R.K.Narayan. Vision Books. 1987. Chapter 7.
  5. ^ Mahabharata, Book III: Varna Parva, Section 285.
  6. ^ Valmiki Ramayana
  7. ^ "Mangi Tungi Temple". 


  • Anna Dhallapiccola, Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend. (ISBN 0-500-51088-1)
  • Valmiki Ramayana, Ramayana written by Maharshi Valmiki.

External links

  • The Ramayana of Valmiki, online version, English translation by Ralph T. H. Griffith.
  • The Mahabharata of Vyasa, online version, English translation by Kisari Mohan Ganguli.
  • Photos of the tympanum at Banteay Srei in Cambodia depicting Sugriva's combat with Vali and Rama's intervention.
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