Thursday, 6 June 2013

The Ramayana – a different perspective – Part I

  As kids we have heard tales about Ramayana and Mahabharata.  We have heard about the gory deeds of the demons and how they, in the end, are overpowered by God. Usually these Gods descend on earth to nullify the evil power possessed by these demons and to give them Moksha.
Very rarely are the good deeds of these demons talked about. May be we have relegated them to a mere saying “Give the demon his due”. In action, we never give the demons their due!

Let me give the devil his due, by introducing Ravana as a great Shiva Bhakta. He was an able administrator and a man of high values and integrity. Under his leadership Lanka came to be known as the land of Gold. Lanka was a very prosperous kingdom. We know this for a fact from the dialogue between Vibhishanan and Kumbakarnan. Kumbakarnan tells Vibhishanan that he will not fight the battle on Rama’s side for the sake of the becoming the king of the Golden city, Lanka. Ravana had courageous soldiers and loyal ministers. Though Rama had a bigger army, the Ravana sena or the army of Ravana, fought bravely for their king till their very end, which goes on to prove that barring the abduction of Sita, they were happy with their king in very many respects. 

Lanka was filled with learned men like Vibhishana, pious men like Ravana himself and brave and loyal men like Kumbakarna. The women were chaste like Mandodari, Ravana’s wife. What then could have triggered a man as righteous as Ravana to abduct Sita?

Lust, it is said was the reason behind this act of his. But if that was true, then Sita was all alone when Ravana abducted her. Logically there was no need for him to abduct her and taking her to Lanka in the most honourable and dignified manner. Ravana does not even touch Sita ,even while kidnapping her. The land mass around them breaks and they get airlifted. So lust clearly is not the motive behind the kidnapping. If revenge was the reason, then what act of Rama’s camp did he avenge? It is believed that when Lakshmana chopped off Surpanaka’s nose, she went to her brother with a bleeding face. This prompted Ravana to kidnap Sita. 

Then is it not right to say that Ramayana, the epic war was sparked off due to Lakshmana’s anger? As much as it was the duty of Rama to save his wife’s honour, it was the duty of Ravana to save his sister’s honour. 

But at this point I am going to place an argument which is debatable. “Nothing succeeds like success”, they say. But behind Rama’s success there was a sense of justice. While Ravana also fought for his sister’s honour, which was a noble cause, he should have fought the man who dishonoured his sister, rather than abducting an innocent lady, thereby putting her to shame. Rama, on the other hand, fought directly with the man who had brought dishonour to his wife. Had Ravana fought Lakshmana directly, he probably would have been the hero of Ramayana.

With this perspective to the Ramayana, there are quite a number of lessons to be learnt. Firstly, Lakshmana’s anger turned into rage when he cut off the nose of Surpanaka. 

A gruesome act under whatever provocation will only lead to grave consequences. The first lesson that we have to learn is to channelize our anger.

In the saga as described above, Lakshmana acted in anger and haste. This anger made Ravana counter-act in the same haste and anger. The one man who was angered, but did not act in haste, was Rama. He channelized his anger in finding a solution. He sent Hanuman as a messenger of peace. If at this stage, Ravana had let go of his ego, maybe, he could have made Rama understand Lakshmana’s folly. Having failed in bringing peace, his next step was to ensure Sita was safe. This too he did with Hanuman’s help. 

And in end, to save his wife, Rama waged war against Ravana, as he should have done. Anger, haste and ego can bring great losses, while patience and kindness towards others make us a hero.