Lord Raama, Is that you?

Posted: August 28, 2012 in Mythology, Social
Tags: , ,

“And that’s why we say that you should pray the lord before you go to bed. Make it a habit to chant ‘ramaskandam hanumantham‘ before you sleep and then you will see that you will never get such bad dreams” – so said my mother and put to rest my fear of bad dreams that kept recurring in my mind ever since I had had a bad dream the previous night. “It is said that even sage Valmiki, once a dacoit, on his transformation to being a good mortal, was advised by sage Narada to ceaselessly chant ‘Mara’ (reverse of Rama) when Valmiki was unable to chant lord Raama’s name” – I remember her saying something like this that day before our discussion ended. I must have been around 10 years then, and Since that day, I don’t remember sleeping a night without praying my Lord Raama. Lord Raama is more than just a God for me, he is faith, he is liberation, and he is my guard.
I have read somewhere that the name Raama encompasses three syllables: Ra, Aa, and Ma. Ra signifies Agni (Fire God); Aa, Surya (Sun God); and Ma, Chandra (Moon God). Fire God burns all sins, Sun God dispels darkness, and Moon God cools one’s temper and produces tranquilityβ€”in essence fostering the harmony of thought, word, and deed.
“When in distress, you should always remember your favorite deity. For some unknown reason, Guru Raghavendra comes to my mind every time I am in distress…” she had said on another instance. That was when this question occurred to me – who is my favorite deity? and the answer to the question occurred as instantaneously – Lord Raama, Lord Ganesha. Some time as recently as 7 years back I added lord Hanumaan to the list.

Mythology has always caught my curiosity, I love reading books on mythology, especially stories of my favorite deities. One such book that caught my attention was ‘Ramayana’ (Valmiki’s version) by Sri Rajgopalachari. The narration of the story is simple and elegant, and is written keeping the youth in mind. His attention to detail, pruning of unnecessary passages, the emotional and the elated tone of the story are all very evident as you read the chapters of the book.
Since I am particularly fond of Raama, with every page I contentedly turned, I eagerly waited for some of the very important episodes of the Ramayana’s mythic past – the Seeta swayamvar, the deceiving illusion of the golden deer that captivated Seeta, the killing of Raavana and lastly, the fire ordeal that Seeta went through to prove her chastity to Lord Raama.
I must tell you that for most part of the book, my state of mind was so elated, I enjoyed reading every word of the book. I took some time off between chapters to assimilate, introspect and also appreciate Sir Rajgopalachari on his marvelous writing. As I turned through the chapters, I both rejoiced and sighed as the pages on the left piled up and the pages on the right diminished, for, I was happy that I was getting closer to some of the most awaited ear marking episodes of Ramayana,but at the same time, sad that I was approaching the end of the book. I relished every page of it and every chapter left me hungry for more.
And finally I landed on the page where my Lord Raama takes the brahma-astra in his hand, utters a spell and directs it straight at Raavana, the brahma-astra penetrates Raavana’s armour, pierces his chest where the secret of Raavana’s invincibility is enshrined, and shatters it. This brings the end of Raavana, the evil incarnate.
It was a delight to read the saga of Raama where the Lord Raama and His consorts are born are mere mortals who, given to destiny, experience human sorrow, and go on to establish Dharma on earth.

Now, as I continued to read, I only waited for the union of Raama and Seeta, and their celebration of togetherness after a long episode of distress and battle. But what was yet to come was far from being pleasant. To believe my eyes, I had to go back and read the part again where Raama says ‘How can a kshatriya take back a wife who has lived in a stranger’s house for so long?’. Although I knew well that Seeta takes the fire ordeal to prove to Lord Raama her chastity, given to Lord Raama’s character, I didn’t expect this coming. I felt that it was so unbecoming of him to suspect her chastity and not accept Seeta with open arms. It was painful to read it.
To me it was unsettling that Raama should instigate Seeta to jump into the kindled fire to prove her integrity, after having gone through an emotional turmoil, for no fault of hers. In my eyes, Raama had won the battle, but lost the war.

Before Valmiki’s time, legend had it , that after recovering Seeta, Raama sent Seeta away to live all by herself in a forest, fearing a scandal! This has taken shape as Uttarakaanda of Ramayana. Valmiki, in keeping with Raama’s benevolent character, has portrayed him differently.
However, I can only find some solace in Sir Rajagopalachari’s explanation that since Lord Raama was an avataar of Lord Vishnu, who had taken birth as a mortal to slay the daemon Raavana, Once the target was meted out and victory was achieved by lord Raama, that also marked the end of the avataar and the divinity was lost, after which Raama lived only as the king of Ikshvaaku race. With this explanation, King Raama’a behavior can only be attributed to the customs and thinking that prevailed in those times.
I battled an array of thoughts after the ending of Ramayana stirred up my emotions and invoked my feminist views before I could contain and tell myself that mythology is inevitably bound to the society and time in which it occurs and hence is justified by its prevailing culture and environment.

Seeta’s sorrows have not ended with Ramayana, it is but an ongoing pathos in the lives of our women. A closer look into the society in India today still mirrors the voiceless and endless suffering of our womenfolk.

  1. Pradip says:

    Absolutely True! My favourite God is “Lord Ganesha”… I feel he is with me always. Incidentally, I’ve been to key places of worship of all religions – Infant Jesus, Ajmer Dargah.

    I believe when each family treats its mother, daughter, daughter-in-law with respect will the society change and suffering disappear. I fail to understand how can a mother-in-law treat her daughter-in-law different from her daughter? Who is to blame here?

    • I appreciate the way you think Pradip, Not everyone thinks like you. That’s where the problem lies. You rightly said it, a truly progressing society is a society in which women feel secure, and take the liberty to walk and think freely.

  2. Anonymous says:

    That act of Lord Rama subjecting Sita to Agni Pariksha is not to be stamped as right or wrong. In fact, it is usually misunderstood. While, as a husband, he did not doubt her in any way, as a king, he only did so to convince his subjects of the her purity.

    • It is not really about whats right and whats wrong, after all who are we to judge the Gods?! πŸ™‚
      This is just my take on the fire ordeal of Seeta. There are many versions of this episode, put in different ways, but I have not come across one such version where Raama happily accepts Seeta with open arms!

  3. suklamc says:

    First, I’d say thanks.
    A prayer I said every night, and forgotten later, but did effortlessly recollect now & appreciated a lot more.

    Over the past couple of years, grew out of praying. But genuinely remembered god a lot more often.

    I lost almost all my deities but came to accept one god.

    I came to terms with accepting me, trust myself – my word , thats what I’ve learnt to value more.

    I’d just say one thing about the last part of your post. Rama did not stand my Sita.
    We have people who wish the best for us, who are we when someone says something about them – a spectator or somebody who stands for them.

    Did Rama stand by Sita, is what I ask ?

    Ans: , …….. …….. ……..
    I leave you to think πŸ˜‰

    • Sukla! Firstly thank you for going through my post πŸ™‚ Almost every child has been taught ‘Rama skandam’ as one of the first shlokas, we continue to recite them as we grow up or not is a different thing. I can totally relate to your line ‘I came to terms with accepting me, trust myself – my word , thats what I’ve learnt to value more.’

      I didnt quiet understand the last couple of sentences you mentioned –
      ‘I’d just say one thing about the last part of your post. Rama did not stand my Sita.
      We have people who wish the best for us, who are we when someone says something
      about them – a spectator or somebody who stands for them.
      Did Rama stand by Sita, is what I ask ?’
      Could you rephrase please? πŸ™‚

  4. A nice blog! Lets be practical – Lord Rama killed Emperor Ravana and then Lord Rama took his wife Sita back to Ayodhya. Forget the fire test. Rama comes back with his wife to his Kingdom, leaving the most richest and prosperous kingdom in the sub-continent, Lanka. There was no need for Rama to come back to Ayodhya, he could have settled in Lanka. Or else he could have looted the wealth and taken it to Ayodhya, but he didn’t. He didn’t even impose any sanctions on Lanka and tried to control it from Ayodhya. He was didn’t become greedy after seeing the immense wealth of Lanka, he stuck to his motive – that is rescuing his wife. His responsibility was to serve his people. Just like we have a mother land – our lives and responsibilities are to work for our mother land and our country men, even Rama had a responsibility. His responsibility was to serve his mother land. These are couple of things that make him an outstanding human being. Secondly, it is not about right and wrong, but it is more about what you stand for and how your actions and deeds impact the masses. Rama choose his people. He was a crowned king and had to serve the people. He didn’t kill Sita or throw her out of the Kingdom. If he had doubted her Lava & Kusha would not have born. A man who controlled his sexual urge for fourteen years wouldn’t have indulged in sex if he had doubted his wife. Even today, Indian men and women feel disgust when the even think of their partner having sexual relationship with others. But Rama didn’t. That shows how much Rama trusted and loved his wife. Asking her to leave was more a political decision, which he, as a king, had to take. He had dedicated his life to his people when he became a King. But we have to note that Sita was sent to an Ashram. To me Rama is an human being, his deeds, principles and vitrues made him an outstanding human being which when combined with his love for all, selflessness and committment made him a God. I know one can tell his perspective and say he/she is correct. So it is up to that individual to decide what he or she finally thinks is right or wrong. Because there is no universal law to define right and wrong. Lastly, the author has spoken about feminism. Rama went to forest without opposing the decision taken by his parents. Rama’s father stood by his words given to his Wife and sent his favorite son to forest. No what does your feminism say? πŸ™‚ There are bad men and equally bad women, similarly there are many good men and good women. Competition is a common thing in all creatures on this planet. Since we are human beings, the smart creatures, we try to dominate the fellow human – men or women who are weaker to use – physically or emotionally. Rama is indeed a great human being who should how ordinary a human can become god in the eyes of his fellow humans. A lengthy comment πŸ™‚ Thanks for your time πŸ˜›

    • Ravish!! Thank you so much for taking time to read my blog. I totally agree with all the points you have made assessing Raama’s character. The only difference in the way we both think is that, I consider Raama as GOD, and hence I expected him to be ideal when it came to accepting Sita, just as he was perfect in every other sense. Where as you think of Raama as a great human being, and hence you would like to highlight all the good deeds Raama did and not pay much attention to the fire ordeal episode πŸ™‚
      Raama is GOD to me and a great human being to you, and hence, both our thinking is justified in its own sense πŸ™‚

      Thank you again for commenting!

      • Ops! Rama indeed is a God whom I worship everyday. It is clearly mentioned in Ramayana that Lord Rama is a human being, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Hence, Rama is a human being. But it is shown here, in Ramayana, that a human being through his character, principles and deeds can become godly. This clearly tells what is many Hindu Philosophers have preached till date. It is a human being that becomes god on earth through his deeds, character and attitude. I know and fully agree that each one of us based on our faith and logic define things. This makes Hinduism a unique of its kind. There are both Atheists and Theists Hindu Philosophers who have interpreted Rama in different ways. But, we should never miss the core of Ramayana – A person sacrifices everything that he has for the sake and good of others. Hard to find such a human being. If one can do that then may be he is an incarnation of God – Selfless Being.

  5. Venki says:

    “Sita Agnipravesham” scene has always been challenging part of Valmiki Ramayana for any youngster to digest and co-relate the actions of Sri Rama with his love-so-far-shown-to-Sita. Except this scene, there is no other scene or dialogue in Ramayana where Sri Rama has behaved so roughly with Sita.

    There have been many pundits who have tried to analyse this and majority of them have even tried to defend Rama’s action. As a youngster, I am not so far convinced with any explanation given so far.

    You should try reading Right Hon Sriniviasa Satry’s “The Lectures On Ramayana” book and you may like it. In Kannada, Sri Maasti Venkatesha Aiyengaar’s “Adikavi Valmiki” and “Uttarakanda Vichara” are two small good books worth reading.

    So far, Maasti’s explanation is more acceptable and I am finding it convincing.

  6. Venki says:

    I would like to even add DVG’s “Sri Rama Pareekshanam” book for the earlier list of books.

    • Thankyou for the insightful comments Venki. After reading your comment I am now really keen to know what explanation Sir Maasti has given πŸ™‚ next time I visit Ankita book house in gandhi bazaar I will surely keep these books in mind.

      • Venki says:

        Sometimes Masti’s books are not easily available in bookshops. Better you directly visit “Maasti Mane” in Gavipuram, opp Doddaganapathi Temple, Basavanagudi.

  7. oh! I have seen the place from outside, thought it to be some kind of museum. I will definitely visit one of these weekends. Thankyou Venki πŸ™‚

  8. Sriram says:

    To be truthful we are all dependent on the interpretations of the Ramayan but we really have no clue of what transpired at that time period. Even the stories have only created more confusion and questions.

    Like the Swayamwar concept where the girl chose the guy and in Sita’s case the suitor had to string the bow that no one could lift. The reason for this test was due to a incident in the past where Sita as a kid moved it effortlessly.

    At the other end of the story we have Ram who was born to Kaushalya but raised predominantly by Kaikeyi who was a warrior who was the charioteer of Dashratha (which means one who fought from 10 directions).

    The other queens are said to be effective administrators of the kingdom when Dashratha was at war. There are instances which talk of Sita and most of the women during that period having some kind of training in the use of weapons.

    The fire test will always be the controversial because of its imagery and interpretation. The Kamban version talks of Sita as a very strong and mercurial woman when angered. If we call her a god in the lines of Kali then I think I would not want to be around when she is angry.

    I heard one story version where Ram was reminded of his purpose of coming out of the kingdom and he realizes that Sita cannot be a victim who could be kidnapped and hence asks the gods to help him out and most of them refuse because of they feared the anger of Sita. Agni take it on himself to host Sita for a period of time. Ram asks for a copy of Sita for the sake of his purpose.

    Ravan is said to have kidnapped this version of Sita that is made by Agni. This does raise a question, why create this drama where Sita is kidnapped. This answer lies in the laws of war of the time where it was impossible for Ram to go to war with Ravan without valid cause. Also Ravan was a Brahmin king and by the rules of the time he had chosen to be among a certain set of people and was not a bad king to his people. This made it all the more difficult as without the kidnapping the war would have looked more like a marauding invasion by Ram on Lanka.

    Agni also put a strict condition on the time saying that if by the end of decided time the copy is not returned, Sita will stay forever with Agni as his daughter thereby making Agni stronger than all gods and put an end to life in universe.

    We could question why a daughter and not any other relationship. This is answered by the story of Vikram and Beetal about 4 travellers and their creation on a wooden doll.

    The stories are so layered that we cannot see merely one side of it. That is the beauty of most Indian mythology. Like in Kaikeyi’s case, she lost the respect of her birth son Bharat and had to ask for the exile of Ram whom she doted on more than Bharat. We may call her a bad mother today but we rarely ask what she had to go through for the years Ram was in exile.

    The trouble is the story is not a straight line. Its got smaller storied that are lost in the narration with time that needs to be looked that before we judge. The best of most the Hindu mythology is its ok to question :). But if we just stop at the question then we are not completing the learning.

  9. Sriram! you have given it a different perspective altogether and I like it!
    I knew this other version of the story where the Sita that Raavan kidnapped is the mirror image of Sita herself. But didn’t know of the second part where she went into the fire since she had to be returned ! Hmmm, that makes some sense now. Hindu mythology, like you said is multidimensional. The story that most of us are aware of is but a number of stories interwoven and we are so lost in the tangle. But anyway, since Lord Raama is really one of my favorites, the Valmiki’s version doesnt go down that well with me πŸ™‚

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