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"Never Trust the Guise"

वेषं न विश्वसेत् प्राज्ञो वेषो दोषाय जायते |

रावणो भिक्षुरूपेण जहार जनकात्मजाम् ||

Word-to-Word Meaning:

  • वेषं (veṣaṃ): appearance, guise, dress

  • न (na): not

  • विश्वसेत् (viśvaset): should trust

  • प्राज्ञः (prājñaḥ): a wise person, an intelligent person

  • वेषः (veṣaḥ): appearance, guise, dress

  • दोषाय (doṣāya): to harm, to fault

  • जायते (jāyate): leads to, results in

  • रावणः (rāvaṇaḥ): Ravana

  • भिक्षु-रूपेण (bhikṣu-rūpeṇa): in the form of a beggar, in the guise of a mendicant

  • जहार (jahāra): abducted, took away

  • जनकात्मजाम् (janakātmajām): daughter of Janaka (referring to Sita)

English Meaning:

"A wise person should not trust appearances, appearances can lead to harm. Ravana, in the guise of a beggar, abducted the daughter of Janaka (Sita)."

Kannada Meaning:

"ಬುದ್ಧಿವಂತ ವ್ಯಕ್ತಿಯು ವೇಷವನ್ನು ನಂಬಬಾರದು, ವೇಷವು ಹಾನಿಗೆ ಕಾರಣವಾಗಬಹುದು. ರಾವಣ, ಭಿಕ್ಷುಕನ ವೇಷದಲ್ಲಿ, ಜನಕನ (ಸೀತೆ) ಮಗಳನ್ನು ಅಪಹರಿಸಿದನು."

 Hindi Meaning:

"बुद्धिमान व्यक्ति को छद्मवेश पर विश्वास नहीं करना चाहिए, छद्मवेश से हानि हो सकती है। रावण ने भिखारी के भेष में जनक की पुत्री (सीता) का अपहरण कर लिया।"


Moral Lesson:

1. Importance of Discernment:

  • Surface vs. Reality: The shloka emphasizes that wise individuals should not take things at face value. They should probe deeper, understanding the true nature of situations and people before making judgments or decisions.

  • Avoiding Deception: By being discerning, one can avoid the pitfalls of deception. This discernment is a hallmark of wisdom, as it helps in identifying potential threats masked by benign appearances.

  • Real-Life Application: In everyday life, this translates to being cautious and not making hasty judgments based on superficial charm, eloquence, or appearance. It is about seeking the truth beyond the facade.

2. Deception and Harm:

  • Constructed Appearances: The shloka underscores that appearances can be deliberately constructed to deceive. Ravana's beggar guise was a strategic move to bypass Sita's defenses.

  • Historical Parallels: History shows numerous instances where deceptive appearances led to significant harm. Trusting a misleading guise has led to betrayals, wars, and losses.

Ancient References Illustrating the Danger of Trusting Appearances

The concept of deceptive appearances is a recurring theme in many ancient texts, including Indian scriptures and epics. Below are several examples from ancient Indian literature:

1. Shakuni’s Deception in the Mahabharata:

  • Context: The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India. Shakuni, the cunning uncle of the Kauravas, played a pivotal role in the downfall of the Pandavas through deceit.

  • Deception: Shakuni’s outward appearance was that of a concerned family member, but his intentions were malicious. He masterminded the game of dice, which led to the Pandavas losing their kingdom and going into exile. This deception had catastrophic consequences, leading to the Kurukshetra war.

2. Kautilya's Arthashastra:

  • Context: The Arthashastra, written by Kautilya (also known as Chanakya), is an ancient Indian treatise on statecraft, economic policy, and military strategy.

  • Deception: Kautilya advocates for the use of espionage and disguise as strategic tools in governance and warfare. The text includes numerous instances where spies are instructed to use disguises to gather information or deceive enemies, illustrating the importance of not trusting appearances.

3. Story of Vibhishana in the Ramayana:

  • Context: Vibhishana was Ravana’s brother in the Ramayana. Despite being a Rakshasa (demon), Vibhishana was righteous and ultimately defected to Rama’s side.

  • Deception: Ravana failed to see Vibhishana's true loyalty to dharma and dismissed his counsel. Vibhishana’s defection, though morally correct, appeared treacherous to Ravana and significantly contributed to his downfall.

4. The Story of Nala and Damayanti (Mahabharata):

  • Context: In the Mahabharata, the story of Nala and Damayanti is a poignant tale of love and deception.

  • Deception: The gods themselves disguised as Nala to test Damayanti's love and loyalty. Damayanti, through her wisdom and discernment, could identify the real Nala among the disguised gods. This story underscores the importance of seeing beyond appearances.

5. Indra's Deception in Vedic Texts:

  • Context: In various Vedic stories, the king of gods, Indra, often uses disguises to test the virtue of sages and humans.

  • Deception: In the Rigveda, Indra disguises himself to test the hospitality of the sage Gautama and his wife Ahalya. These tales emphasize the moral that appearances can be misleading, and true virtue lies in recognizing and adhering to dharma.

6. The Story of Devavrata (Bhishma) in the Mahabharata:

  • Context: Devavrata, who later became Bhishma, took a vow of celibacy to ensure his father Shantanu could marry Satyavati.

  • Deception: This vow and his appearance as a devoted son masked the intense personal sacrifice and the future turmoil it would bring, including the complex dynamics leading to the Mahabharata war. It shows how noble appearances can sometimes hide deep-seated consequences.


The shloka "वेषं न विश्वसेत् प्राज्ञो वेषो दोषाय जायते | रावणो भिक्षुरूपेण जहार जनकात्मजाम् ||" provides a timeless lesson on the perils of trusting appearances. These ancient references from Indian scriptures and epics reinforce the idea that wisdom lies in discernment and looking beyond the surface.

  • Shakuni’s Deception: Illustrates the catastrophic consequences of trusting a deceptive family member.

  • Kautilya's Arthashastra: Emphasizes the strategic use of disguises in statecraft and warfare.

  • Vibhishana's Story: Highlights how true intentions can be masked by perceived loyalty or treachery.

  • Nala and Damayanti: Demonstrates the ability to see through divine disguises to find true love.

  • Indra’s Deceptions: Show that even gods use disguises to test human virtue.

  • Bhishma's Vow: Reflects on how noble appearances can mask deep sacrifices and future turmoil.

In each case, the lesson remains clear: discernment and vigilance are essential to avoid the pitfalls of deceptive appearances. These stories continue to be relevant, offering moral and practical guidance in navigating complex human interactions.

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