A time to look within
Ram Rajya” remains relevant ten thousand years later because people crave for good governance, peace and prosperity which have remained largely...
“Ram Rajya” remains relevant ten thousand years later because people crave for good governance, peace and prosperity which have remained largely elusive in a world steeped in materialism. Decimated by corruption that has been erupting in many forms like Ravana’s 10 heads, is it a wonder that the idea of “Rama Rajya” remains a mirage?
“Antha Ramamayam Eejagamantha Ramamayam” …the Bhadrachala Ramadasa Kriti which extols the Rama within us (AntharangamunaAthmaramudu) who holds us in thrall to his myriad manifestations (Anantharoopamulavinthalusalupa) is one of the many musical outpourings that is part of the literature, culture, folklore, and political thought of an epic that reflects Indian ethos like no other.
Ramanavami the festival that falls on the ninth day of the Shukla Paksha (brighter half) of the Chaitra masa of the Hindu calendar heralds the birth of Rama as the seventh Avatar among the ten incarnations of Vishnu. It draws significance from the fact that Rama is worshipped as an embodiment of “dharma” (righteousness) and “Ram Rajya” has been viewed as an ideal society free of strife ever since the epic penned by sage Valmiki became the basis of over three hundred versions of the epic poem.
So widespread is Rama’s influence that it has many modern-day writers like Ashok Banker, Amish Tripathi and Arshia Sattar among others with different interpretations and fictional retellings of the Ramayana. That they are lapped up by readers who are never tired of the God, who in his human incarnation was “Maryada Purushottma” or the “ideal man” speaks volumes for its popularity.
So enduring is the appeal of this saga with dramatic twists, human follies and lessons on the righteousness that it wields great influence outside India having spread to Burma, Indonesia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and several other countries.
The message of the Ramayana which is the upholding of “Dharma” even when it causes personal loss or self-abnegation has a timeless appeal across the nook and corner of our country. The views of Sri Aurobindo, the great literary figure of the 20th century, radical nationalist and spiritual thinker, clearly articulate the importance of the epic. He opines that ‘The Ramayana’ has been an agent of incalculable power in moulding the cultural mind of India and weaving ethical and moral content into the fabric of society.
“A profound stress of thought on life, a large and vital view of religion and society, a certain strain of philosophical idea runs through these poems and the whole ancient culture of India is embodied in them with a great force of intellectual conception and living presentation,” he says in one of his analytical essays on the Ramayana.
The many vernacular Ramayana’s like the Kamban in Tamil, the “Ranganatha Ramayanam” and the “Molla Ramayanam” in Telugu and the “Krittivasi Ramayan” in Bengali played an important role in its percolation to the common man unable to follow the Sanskrit version. “Ramacharitamanas” an epic poem composed in Awadhi by the 16th-century Bhakti poet GoswamiTulsidas had a major impact on the northern belt with the dramatic enactment of the text being the basis for “Ramlila” staged with great pomp in these parts on Ramanavami.
The death of the “Dasamukha” (ten-headed) Ravana at the hands of Rama where ‘Ramabanas’ (Rama’s powerful arrows) engulf the Ravana effigy symbolising the triumph of “good over evil” is a mega event in many places in North India with huge grounds serving as “Ramlila” venues.
Arshia Sattar, author of ‘Ramayana for Children’ in interviews has spoken about the beauty of Valmiki’s Ramayana, which has spawned all other versions and says the epic tells us how hard it is to be a good human being. “Valmiki's Ramayana is like a mirror. What we find in the story is what we look for,” she adds. The fact that Rama is viewed as “God-like” at times and has feminists rooting for “Sita” and wanting to stick pins on him at others, are perhaps thoughts that led her to talk about the issue of perception concerning the Ramayana.
Fact or fiction, myth or legend Lord Ram’s legacy rules the hearts of all Indians including our Indian Politicians. “Ram Rajya” a term used to denote a reign of peace and prosperity ushered in by King Ram was first used in post-colonial India by Mahatma Gandhi to denote a place where the ideals of justice, equality and fraternity ensured that citizens were happy and stress-free.
Gandhi’s definition of Ram Rajya was, however, devoid of narrow religious considerations. He himself clarified this when he said “Let no one commit the mistake of thinking that Ram Rajya means a rule of Hindus. My Ram is another name for Khuda or God. I want Khuda Raj which is the same thing as the Kingdom of God on Earth”.
“Ram Rajya” remains relevant 10,000 years later because people crave for good governance, peace and prosperity which have remained largely elusive in a world steeped in materialism.
Decimated by corruption that has been erupting in many forms like Ravana’s 10 heads, is it a wonder that the idea of “Rama Rajya’ remains a mirage? As the spirit of Ramanavami pervades the atmosphere and “Ramlilas” take centre stage it is time to take in the spiritual purport behind the great epic that ends on a victorious note. It is perhaps a time to revisit the great devotion that sprang forth from hearts that prayed to Rama through Bhajans, Kirtans and lilas that eulogise him.
The great Rama devotee Thyagaraja sang - “Nidhi chaalasukhama… Ramuni Sannidhiseva Sukhama? Nijamugabalkumanasa” (Is true happiness to be found in material wealth or in the service and proximity to the Lord?). In choosing service and devotion above ephemeral material wealth Thyagaraja conveys a message that only reiterates the message of the Ramayana. Ramanavami is indeed a time to awaken the “Atma Rama’’ or inner consciousness in order to find true happiness in the outer world.