Vanvas (Sanskrit: वनवास, Hindustani pronunciation: [ʋənˈʋaːs]) is a Sanskrit term meaning residence (vās) in a forest (van). While it can be undertaken voluntarily, it usually carries a connotation of forced exile as a punishment. It commonly figures as a harsh penalty in ancient Hindu epics (such as the Ramayan and Mahabharat) set in a time, thousands of years ago, when much of the Indian subcontinent was a wilderness.
When vanvas is self-imposed, it can imply seclusion from worldly affairs to focus on spiritual matters, as in the case of ashrams (hermitages) established by ancient rishis. When imposed as a punishment, it carries an implication of enforced isolation from society and exposure to life-threatening situations (the elements and wildlife).
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