Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Sri Rama - The Best Among Men

Me and my siblings have been fed with Ramayana, Mahabharatha and other stories by my granny since we were kids. She was a storehouse of myths, legends, Puranas and fairy tales. Like a TV soap opera she narrated the stories daily at bedtime and kept us five siblings from bothering our Mom. Thanks to her, though I haven't read the epics myself, I know the entire story and the characters in them by heart.

In Ramayana, the interesting part for me after the death of Ravana was the 'Agni-pareeksha' of Seetha. I was more fascinated with the miracle of fire not burning Seetha. The kid in me was engrossed in the fantastic nature rather than dwelling on the harsh realities.

As time flew by and the stories became more real than fantasy, I started looking for human stories in these larger than life epics. Enquiry replaced wonder. Questions replaced blind belief.

I am a believer in God and my personal prayer involved Lord Sri Rama among few other deities. But since couple of years I am unable to think of Sri Rama as my ideal, because he betrayed Seetha. He left her high and dry when she needed him the most.

During the hindu wedding rituals, the bride and groom take a vow, of togetherness, with sacred fire 'agni' as the witness. Rama married Seetha by promising in front of 'agni' that he will always be there with her in happiness or illness, taking care of her well being.

He went to great lengths to keep the word of his father, but when it came to himself, he turned a blind eye, abandoned the promise made in front of 'agni' and casted away a pregnant Seetha into the wilderness to the mercy of wild beasts.

To fulfill his father's promise, Rama went into exile for 14 years. He was supposed to go alone, but Seetha followed him when she, instead, could've opted to stay in the palace. She endured the hardships just to be with her beloved. She was kidnapped by Ravana and suffered great misery but the hope that Rama will come and rescue her saw her through that misery. Surely Rama came, fought Ravana and killed him only to plunge Seetha into the fire.

Rama, who once with the mere touch of his toe relieved Ahalya off her curse, now wanted Seetha to convince him of her chastity and asked her to purify herself by entering the fire. Even fire couldn't harm her and Rama, now convinced, took her back, returned to Ayodhya and was enthroned. All's well that ends well, we thought, until a washerman cast aspersions on Seetha. That's it, Rama had to dump Seetha at any cost because one of his subjects doubted the queen.

Seetha, who was pregnant at that time is not even given an explanation or a hint about what was coming her way. The least suspecting Seetha is taken to the edge of the forest and dumped there unceremoniously.

For Rama, the word of his subject is far more important than the word he had given his wife during the wedding; by sending away Seetha he was only endorsing the view of the washerman. If he was so much concerned with the washerman's words, he could have abdicated the throne, but no! He would rather dump his wife than give away the throne.

Rama questioned the chastity of his wife, took her trial by fire, betrayed the promise given to her and dumped her acknowledging a hearsay. Can you call him 'Maryada Purushottama?'

ಪಾದಸ್ಪರ್ಶದಿ ಶಿಲೆ ಸಾಧ್ವಿಯಾದಲ್
ನಾಮಬಲದಿ ಶಿಲೆ ಜಲದಿ ತೇಲಲ್
ಅರ್ಧಾಂಗಿಯಿಂ ಅಗ್ನಿ ಪ್ರಮಾಣ ಬಯಸೆ
ಮನಸೇಕೆ ಕಲ್ಲಾಯ್ತು? - ಪೆದ್ದುಗುಂಡ


(I wrote the above verse on 28 November 2008 and since it echos the same question as in this post, I am including it here. You can read this and many more of my Kannada verses here.)

To read more about Sita follow this link.

21 comments:

Deepthi said...

I have shocked my elders with my opinions about Hindu mythology. Frankly, I dont believe a word in any of the epics.I dont even know the stories. I just believe there is a God, but doesnt not take form of any of the "hindu" Gods.

Raghu said...

Hey, thanks Deepthi for dropping by.

Though as a kid I took everything as it was that came my way, I started questioning things a little later during my adolescence. I have not stopped questioning and don't plan to stop, ever.

Many a times when things are said over and over again, we tend to take them for granted but on closer scrutiny we uncover hidden meanings about them that can jolt us out and encounter us with the reality.

Nobody pays any notice to the fact that Draupadi had five husbands, we take it for granted but when someone around us does such thing, it seems outrageous to us. What you say?

Megha said...

It is nice to see someone think of Rama the way I have thought of him for a while and stating that opinion too. Statements like 'Rama was a wimp' always got me the scowls of my elders, but he has never been much of a 'hero' in any sense of the word, and that belief has only strengthened as I've gotten older. In all the times that he needed to stand up for what he believed in, he went with what the public opinion instead, not once being a source of support for the people depending on him.

Wonderful post on a very interesting topic!

Raghu said...

Hi Megha, good to have the Blog-Diva visiting me. aho bhaag hamaare. aapke 'comment' sparsh se hamaari blog paavan huee...

On a serious note, your view about Rama that he never excercised his opinion and always went by others' opinion is a valuable input.

I had left out one thing in my blog which was rather irrelevant to the subject but it has been overlooked by everyone, I think. What happens to the wife of washerman? Whether she is taken back by her husband or not.

One more thing, When Rama goes to forest, Seetha follows him out of love and devotion for him. But when Seetha is sent into the forest by the same Rama, he prefers to stay back in the palace, instead. What a way to show love.

Anonymous said...

I bet the Ramayana may have been written by an MCP!

Anonymous said...

The original — Valmiki Ramayana ends with Ravana's death and Vibheeshana's death.
This story is from other Ramayana's like Tulasi Das'.

ravi
twistedlogix@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

Eek! It should have been "Ramayanas" in the second line not "Ramayana's"
ravi

Anonymous said...

My head is reeling!
Another mistake!

The comment should be
“The original — Valmiki Ramayana ends with Ravana's death and Vibheeshana's coronation.
This story is from other Ramayana's like Tulasi Das'.”

ravi

Bit Hawk said...

Nice post! I dont feel Rama was anyway ideal. He was plain boring with misplaced priorities. I prefer the "shrewd" Krishna anyday. :)

Raghu said...

After I wrote this post I've been hearing different things and also different view points about why Ram did what he did. I think I would have to write a new post for it.

The Thoughtful Philosopher said...

Although I am completely against Ram's sending Sita into the forest, what i think was Valmiki's (attributing that part of Ramayan to him is debatable) reason for Ram's not going with Sita to the forest is that he had a duty as a king to serve his people.

Raghu said...

@ Thoughtful Philospher: Rama was a husband first and a king later. His duty as a husband was more pressing than that of a king. There was an alternative king in the form of Bharata and he had 14 years of experience too. But there were no alternatives for Sita; for her Rama was the only one. Just for a moment, put yourself in the shoes of Sita when she's being abandoned in the forest. Won't you feel betrayed? Best thing is, Rama sends Lakshmana to do this job and thereby escapes answering Sita's questions.

The Thoughtful Philosopher said...

@Raghu
I only mentioned what I thought was Valmiki's reason for Rama's actions. I never said I supported it. On the contrary, Ayodhya's people had no business meddling in Ram's personal life. Also her abduction was none of Sita's fault.

This victimising the wronged is what we see even today when a woman forcibly raped is treated with dishonour when the rapist is the one who should be treated as such.
So even if the people of Ayodhya suspected Sita of having had sexual relationships with Ravana(which was not true) still then it would have been all Ravana's fault. Sita was helpless and cannot be blamed for what happened.

The saddest thing is that Sita stood by Ram when he needed her (when he was exiled) but Ram abandoned her when she needed him the most(when she was pregnant). Even if the Ayodhyawasi's gave him no choice, then it would have been far more admirable to give up the throne then abandon such a wife.

Chaitanya said...

Hey Raghu,
nice blog. I am happy that you actually wanted to get your doubts on Lord Sri Rama clarified.
Before I proceed to give an answer,
I will make few assumptions. I belive they are true.
1) you believe in Rama's existence.
2) your opinion and analysis of Sri Rama's character is derived from Valmiki's Ramayana.

So, let me get a few things right
1) Sri Rama is Lord Vishnu's incarnation while mother Sita is Mata Lakshmi's incarnation. (according to Valmiki's Ramayana)

2)God - a perfected being, all encompassing and omnipresent who WILL never commit a mistake because, let me repeat it is a state of perfection.

Valmiki after having written Ramayana was not satisfied . He then wrote the Spiritual Ramayana (Adhyatmika Ramayana) to provide an answer to the doubts raised by interested people like us.

Now for the explanation.
Sri Rama rules the earth for about 11000 years according to Valmiki.
After such a long time, he realises its time to ascend to his abode, Vaikuntha and preceding this event he plans for Mother Lakshmi's departure.

He uses the washerman's comment as a ruse and he gives Mother Lakshmi permission to ascend to the divine abode. She departs with her divine soul and left behind is the illusion or Maya sita, the physical form( she is pregnant at that instant of time). Lord Rama now asks Maya Sita if she has any wish. She tells Lord Rama that it has been a while that she has been to the forest and that she wants to spend some time in an ashram. Rama agrees and later in the morning orders Lakshman to leave Sita in the forest. Lakshman is blissfully unaware of this and feels extremely dejected while Sita is actually happy to spend some time in the woods. It is here that Maya Sita enacts the human part very well by appearing to be sad.

Lord Vishnu and Mother Lakshmi know at every moment of their existence as Lord Rama and Sita that they are divine. The purpose of their incarnation is to enable humans to live righteously following the principles of Dharma which Lord Rama follows throughout his life and ofcourse to kill Ravana.

This explanation is solely for spiritual enthusiasts who are interested in delving into the depths of Hindu spiritual knowledge and meaning.

I hope you are satisfied with my answer. For any other queries regarding Ramayana and Mahabharata, we can discuss using this forum.

PS: The Sita abducted by Ravana is actually Maya Sita. I will give you an in depth explanation of the reason why Lord Rama asks Sita to prove her chastity if you are interested.

Chaitanya said...

Hi Raghu,
a good rational analysis is given at the following link:
http://www.devdutt.com/threshold-of-chastity-and-civilization

It is followed by the spiritual explanation of two incidents in the Ramayana by myself and a Sriram.

Chaitanya said...

Raghu,
Adhyatma Ramayan was written by Maharshi Veda Vyas, not by Valmiki. Sorry for the error. It is also called the Spiritual Ramayana.

Probal Chatterjee said...

Raghu,

Good to see people feel the way I do.
Incidentally I wrote a blog on same lines completely ignorant about yours.
http://probalchatterjee.blogspot.com

someshwar said...

Hello Ragahv,

Ur all concerned are nothing more than lack of knowledge.

If u will read Ramayana, there is a conversation, before her abduction, between Ram and Sita, Ram telling her what is going to happen to her next, then he said if Ravan touches in ur pure form he will burn and their mission will not be completed, that is why u give me ur one other form, the agni dev helped them in this and Agni dev took the real Sita and an gave one image of her to Ram. That's why, after the war, the image of the Sita has to go through the Agni so that Ram get's real Sita.

For your second part,
Look at the Ramayan broadly, and tell me what is the objective of all this; Ramayan is subtle, so please carefully read it before making any judgment.

Raghu Dharmendra said...

[Chaitanya] 1) Most of we Hindus see lord Rama as more than a human being. He is God for us. So yes, I believe he existed.

2) I am basing my argument entirely on Valmiki Ramayana which is claimed to be the original. Later many poets in many languages have written myriad versions of Ramayana, which is not the concern of this particular post.

You are explaining the act of Rama in the original version with another version which is written by someone else other than Valmiki. Valmiki when started writing the Ramayana, was given omnivision by lord Brahma so that he can see (through divine vision) the life of Sri Rama as it happened so that he can write. So effectively we can state that Valmiki had the first hand information (through divine intervention), which no other author can boast of. If what happens in Adhyatma Ramayana is true, then Valmiki seems to have has omitted those facts which is glaring. I don't think he would have shied away from mentioning such an important thing about Maya Sita.

Also your argument (Rama uses the washerman's comment as a ruse and he gives Mother Lakshmi permission to ascend to the divine abode) makes us think, why Rama had to use a negative situation as a reason to let Sita ascend the heavens. But on the other hand when it was time for him to ascend to heavens, he just plainly walks into the Sarayu river. He did not need any washerman's comments to do so.

So, in effect your argument does not hold water.

[Probal Chatterjee] Thanks for dropping by. I will have a look at your post on the same subject.

[someshwar] Well, please illuminate me sir. I have written this post exactly for the same reason - to acquire knowledge which is not forthcoming. I have asked many scholars, intellectuals, and so on about this confusion regarding Sita's abandonment, but none has given me a satisfactory answer.

You are once again giving me an explanation from Adhyatma Ramayana. Secondly, I am not passing any judgement here. Who am I to judge Rama? He is God, himself and I am a mere mortal. I am only trying to understand him. I am unable to understand him and hence asking questions to the world in the hope that someone will give me a satisfactory answer.

Devvrat Kumbhojkar said...

He did this to ensure that people may post bad words about him but not for his wife. For there are more people in this world of washerman mentality who would have written blogs in this age about Mother Seeta's chastity. Had he protected his wife that time more people would have said such things and this myth down the ages could have been moulded into new version of Ramayana as real thing. With this one act he ensured that in ages to come no one will ever be able to point finger at his wife.

The Thoughtful Philosopher said...

@Devvrat
That is a very interesting explanation. But what you said might be true of today but back then I'm sure a lot of people would have ridiculed Sita for being thrown out of her house on suspicion. You know how people are. They don't give anyone the benefit of doubt.