Friday, January 14, 2011


The Ramayana in contemporary Bharat

01/09/2011 13:41:39


Dr. Vijaya Rajiva

The significance of the Ramayana, whether by Valmiki, Kamban, Tulsidas, Ezuthatchan is that of a devotional prayer. Lord Rama is portrayed as the ideal hero, the ideal individual, maryadarama, and his reign in Ayodhya as the fulfillment of the Vedic ideal of a just polity, a dharmic state, with justice and equality for all. The Vedic seers saw this long before any modern ideals of a just society were formulated. It is no accident that Gandhiji spoke frequently of the Ramarajya. And Indians who are not familiar with that most ancient of Bharat’s thought on the subject may fondly imagine that justice and equality are western importations, that social philosophy somehow originated only in the West. The dharma of Ayodhya is a continuation of an ancient social philosophy.

While one could analyse this devotional epic from a modern standpoint and take it apart from various angles (and there are novelists and shortstory writers, critics and secularists and leftists etc who have done so (India is a free country!) the ideal remains intact in the Hindu ethos. Why is this so ? Afterall, there are violent episodes of war as Rama and his beleagured army of vanaras and forest dwellers fight the agents of the all powerful Ravana. It cannot simply be because of the age old human longing for the victory of good (represented by Rama) over evil (represented by Ravana).

It is because both the everyday Hindu and the intellectualized Hindu and yes the deracinated Hindu and the false secularists and the modernists all recognize that Rama is a dharmic hero. The secularists and modernists and the leftists may outwardly criticize Rama as a feudal prince at best and at worst . . . . . but they cannot shake off the feeling that he is somehow ingrained in their consciousness. He speaks to their deepest longing for a just society. Deep inside them, they know that. Deep inside them even when corrupted by their contemporary modernisms they echo Hanumanji’s prayer for the return of Rama.

In today’s India of super corrupt governance, the dharmic society and state are no longer the bugaboo they once tried to make it out to be. The Vedic ideal expressed so poignantly in the Gayatri, described as the mother of the Veda, seems to have become embodied in the Ayodhya of Bharat’s dreams. It is not an accident that Rama is from the solar dynasty, since the Gayatri is the personification of the radiance and plenitude of the sun.

The worship of the terrestrial, the atmospheric and celestial deities in the Rig Veda is possible because there is no one dogmatic God who rules over the universe, as in the monotheistic faiths with their violence and conquest over the peoples of the earth.

The three worlds are changing and dynamic and open up various possibilities. Hence the Rig Veda is a celebration of life and human society mirrors this celebration. Ayodhya is a world of plenty, of justice, peace and prosperity to all. Sarve bhavantu sukhinah (May all beings be happy !) includes the earth, and the entire universe. Includes all people in society.

The Rama of Ayodhya evokes that dharmic state of well being for all creatures and the environment. Hence, in the Malayalam version by Ezuthatchan, there is an ecstatic invocation of the radiant Rama. Almost a dozen lines call upon Rama, as the ruler not just of Ayodhya, but of the entire world !

This may not be a bad prayer afterall !And it might well be that Bharat has lasted for several millennia and will last for several more because the notion of Punya Bhumi, sacred earth, extends to the entire planet and the invocation to the Gayatri sends out a message to the entire planet for all time:

Gayatri yai dirghai namaha !

Long live Gayatri and one can add: Long live Ayodhya ! Long live the just society, the dharmic society that all Hindus can/should strive for. The Ramayana is for all time.

(The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university).

1 comment:

  1. I would like to urge you to change your paradigm in trying to comprehend the article on Instant Ramayana on this block from historicity of Ramayana or a Story that relates about the life of Rama, the avatara as a man who once lived, (bhoutic perspective), to entirely different perspective (aadhyaaatmic or Yogic perspective) and that is to view Rama, Sita, and Hanuman as "tatvas" that are eternally present (Sanaatana) in the Human existence (an aadhyaatmic insight of Valmiki). Thus I may urge you to view the story as a symbolic representation of Sankhya (not Advaita yet). Purusha standing for Rama, (not only as the observing ego but also the active ego that seeks access to all that is in the Unconscious, and also as the executive agency of the mind that is tuned into the ethical sensitivity, etc.), Prakriti (Bhumi tatva) that always stays with itself and cannot transcend into Purusha (the duality consistently maintained in the core plot). Then comes Prana (Pavana suta) Hanumaana. These three separate "tatvas" when combined make for the human existence both from "topographical" as well as the "structural" theory of the Mind, the early formulations of Freud (not Jung). The dynamics (rajas) brings in Prana. There is a separate article (three part) on Demystifying Hanumana on the sookta-sumana blog which may be a prerequisite reading for gaining a better perspective on the article on Instant Ramayana.

    There is no up and down, these three "tatvas" are all equally important but it is only in forming life of the human being is when they came together in the finest combination with exquisite complexity. Hope this perspective will dispell your disagreements. Again any epic renders itself to multiple perspectives essentially as does any poetry (with right hemisheric cerebral processing), and not all perspectives can be overlapping or even congruent or integrated. However, the meditative or Yogic perspective has been routinely found in the traditional exposition of the Story of Rama as rendered in the temples for the afternoon pravachanas.

    With all the best, and hoping Dr. Tilakji will throw some light from Sankhya view point and see similarity between Mahad and Ganesha (Pranava) and Buddhi (Buddhimataam varishtam, vatatmajam, and pavan suta Hanumana and Kundalini -non Sankhya concept) and all these in Hanuman. What is Ganesha in the macrocosm is Hanuman in the microcosm. (here we may be treading on Tantric tradition - of course, dakshina maarga and not at all vaama maarga)

    Feel free to continue this dialogue as this paradigm is perceived by Valmiki according to Naarada (tat sarvam tatvatah drishtva) before Ramayana was conceived with Valmiki's Yogic insights. This is the basic framework on which my article on Instant Ramayana on this blog is based and it is in no way to contradict any other interpretation or historicity of Ramayana.

    Same thing holds true of Instant Mahabharata on this blog. More on it later. Both articles are intended to give an entirely new perspective and out of the box thinking yet there is ample evidence and internal consitency for these formulations within these two Epics. For example, Dhasharatha symbolically stands for ten rathas symbolizing five jnanendriyas and five karmendriyas that drive the humans. Dashaanana which is to be slain stands for the asura with the same ten presenting more engulphing aspect of indriyas making the victim of bhumi tatva that needed to be rescued back to the abode city of Dasharatha, Ayodhya, a domain of peace where there is no war (conflict, or dandva in Patanjala Yoga "tato dvandvanabhighatah") and of course, as you point out so beautifully there is an epitome of social justice in that domain.

    Thank you again for your permission to publish your article on Ramayana. (I could not copy the picture, and I agree it is a beautiful one). I hope you can see how your article may complement mine by adding more down to earth meaning, adding both socio-political and historical perspective.