Children in Epics

Children of ancient intellectual traditions that are remembered time to time in reference to spiritually, strength, determination and firmness:-

Lava and Kusha

Kuṥa and his twin brother Lava were the children of Lord Rāma and his wife Sītā, whose story is recounted in the Hindu epic Rāmāyaṇa written by Valmīki. According to Uttara Kāṇḍa of this great epic, pregnant Sītā was banished from the kingdom of Ayodhyā by Rāma due to the gossip of general folk of kingdom. She then took refuge in the ramof the sage Valmīki located on the banks of the Tamasā river. According to Rāmāyaṇa, Sītā gave birth to both Lava and Kuṥa at the same time in the support of Valmīki’s disciples. Kuṥa was the elder of the two and is said to have whitish complexion like their mother, while Lava had blue complexion like their father. Names to both kids were given by sage Valmīki. They were educated and trained in military skills and given many natural powers under the tutelage of Valmikī. When Rāma performed the Ashvamedha Yajn᷈a, Lava and Kuṥa attended it with their fatherly sage. At that occasion, they sang the story of Rāmāyaṇa in the presence of king Rāma and his vast audience. When Lava and Kuṥa recited about Sītā’s exile, Rāma became grief-stricken and Valmīki produced Sītā. Sit̄ā called upon the earth, her mother, to receive her and as the ground opened, she vanished into it. Rāma then learnt that Lava and Kuṥa were his children.  Launandan-3

Some poetic works have depicted poetically that Lava and Kuṥa caught the horse of Yajn᷈a during the phase of Aṥvamedha Yajn᷈a, and for that they also gave a good fight to Rāma. Brave sons of Rāma, Lava and Kuṥa became rulers after their father and founded the cities Lavapurī and Kasur respectively. These children are known today for their amity, fearlessness and charm.

Abhimanyu

Abhimanyu, mentioned in the great epic Mahābhārata, was the courageous son of the great Arjuna and Subhadrā, and the nephew of Lord Kṛṣṇa. His story begins just before he was born. When Abhimanyu was in his mother’s womb, Ṥri Kṛṣṇa used to take his sister Subhadrā on excursions. Kṛṣṇa used to relate many of his adventures to the pregnant Subhadrā for her delight. Once he was narrating his experience with the technique of Cakra-vyūha, a military formation which was an effective form of defense. The army would be arranged in the form of a circular grid and would then challenge the enemy to break that grid. It seems that Subhadrā did not find this topic interesting and therefore, after some time she felt asleep. However, someone else was interested in Kṛṣṇa’s narration and he was Abhimanyu in his mother womb. He was carefully following all steps of this vyūha. When Kṛṣṇa noticed that Subhadrā was not responding and she was indeep sleep, he gave up his narration and returned to the palace. Thus, Abhimanyu could only obtain the technique of entering into the circles of the cakra-vyūha. Whatever he had heard from Kṛṣṇa, he carefully preserved in his memory.Unfortunately, he could not know the technique of breaking its circles. He grew up to be a brave, handsome adolescent young man. Many years later, during the Mahābhārata war at Kurukṣetra, the Kauravas set up a cakravyūha and challenged Pāṇḍavas to break it. Only Arjuna knew the technique of doing so, but he was fighting elsewhere at that time. To meet the challenge, Abhimanyu came forward and offered his services for the task of breaking the cakra-vyūha. Despite his incomplete knowledge of the technique, he entered the grid and overcame one circle after another, until he come to the seventh one, the breaking of which he had no knowledge. Brave and ambitious Abhimanyu fought heroically in the unequal struggle but finally met his end.

abhimanyu-badh-gauri-shanker-soni

This story highlights the importance of the childhood saṁskāras and mental growth of a child. Abhimanyu is always remembered for sharp memory, intelligence, courage and bravery.

-Dr. Shashi Tiwari, President, WAVES–India & Former Prof. of Sanskrit, Maitreyi College, University of Delhi

श्री परशुराम आधारित अवतारवाद-विश्लेषण

-डॉ. श्यामदेवमिश्र

आज के सामाजिक अस्त-व्यस्तता के युग में क्रांतिकारी विचारों की आवश्यकता है। परशुराम के जीवन अवतार की वर्तमान में प्रासंगिगकता और अनुकरणीयता को प्रस्तुत आलेख में स्पष्ट करने का प्रयास किया गया है।

(Editor’s note)

अवतारवाद का औचित्य

परब्रह्म-तत्व को मन और बुद्धि से नहीं जाना जा सकता है अत:, उसके विषय में चिन्तन करने के लिए जितने भी उपाय शास्त्रों में वर्णित हैं उसमें ‘अवतारवाद’ सबसे उत्तम कहा जा सकता है क्योंकि जब निर्विशेष (अर्थात् गुण, आकृति आदि से रहित) ब्रह्म बुद्धि में आ ही नहीं सकता है तब उसकी उपासना कैसे सम्भव होगी? ऐसे में मनुष्य, प्रत्यक्ष दिखाई पड़ने वाले पदार्थों में परमेश्वर के लक्षण देखकर उन्हें (उन पदार्थों को) आलंबन (सहारा) मानकर ब्रह्मभाव से उसकी उपासना करता है। उसमें भी, चेतना में – विशेषकर मनुष्यरूप में,  ब्रह्मत्व का भाव रखना तथा उसकी उपासना करना अत्युपयोगी व सरल है क्योंकि उपासक मनुष्य का मन अपने सजातीय में स्वाभाविक रूप से लगने के कारण उससे ही प्रेम करने लगता है जिससे, चित्त स्थिर हो जाता है । यही ‘अवतारोपासना’ है ।

अवतार की अवधारणा

सर्वत्र स्थित, सदा प्रकाशित, शाश्वत, एकरूप शक्ति के अतिरिक्त कोई भी शक्ति नहीं है जो हमारी ज्ञानेन्द्रियों में प्रवेश कर सके। वही चैतन्य शक्ति जब इन्द्रियग्राह्य होने के लिए स्थूल बनता है अर्थात् अपने उच्च स्वरूप से नीचे अवतरण कर स्थूल रूप धारण करता है, तब उसे ईश्वरीयशक्ति का अवतार होना कहते हैं। गीता के चतुर्थ अध्याय के छठे श्लोक “अजोऽपि सन्नव्ययात्मा ……सम्भवाम्यात्ममायया” में भगवान् स्वयम् अवतरण को स्पष्ट करते हुए कहते हैं कि मैं जन्मरहित, अविनाशी तथा सभी भूतों में रहते हुए भी अपने अनन्त-रूप-धारण-सामर्थ्य-सम्पन्नरूपी स्वभाव-धर्म-शक्ति का उपयोग करके अपनी माया से स्थूल जगत् में अवतार धारण करता हूँ।

दश अवतार

वराहपुराण के अनुसार दश अवतार क्रमशः इस प्रकार हैं –

  1. मत्स्य: कूर्मो 3. वराहश्च 4. नृसिंहो 5. वामनस्तथा
  2. रामो 7. रामश्च 8. कृष्णश्च 9. बौद्ध: 10. कल्की तथैव च ।।

इसमें छठे अवतार राम अर्थात् परशुराम थे। इसके अतिरिक्त पुरुषावतार, गुणावतार, मन्वन्तरावतार इत्यादि प्रसिद्ध हैं ।

cleanh3sha2uf_ael_2_300

(Source of image: http://vishnudashavatars.blogspot.in/2010/04/vishnu-dashavatar.html)

अवतारों के प्रकार

यद्यपि सभी अवतार परिपूर्ण हैं, किसी में तत्त्वत: न्यूनाधिक्य नहीं है; तथापि शक्ति के प्रकटन की न्यूनता-अधिकता के आधार पर अवतारों के चार प्रकार माने गए हैं –

1. आवेश, २. प्राभव, ३. वैभव और ४. परावस्थ

परशुराम, कल्की आदि आवेशावतार हैं। कूर्म, मत्स्य, वराह आदि वैभवावतार तथा श्रीनृसिंह, श्रीराम एवं श्रीकृष्ण परावस्थवतार या पूर्णावतार हैं ।

अवतार का प्रयोजन?

अवतरण हेतु आवश्यक परिस्थिति या उचित काल को भगवान ने स्वयं ही गीता में बताया है –

“यदा यदा ही धर्मस्य ग्लानिर्भवति भारत। अभ्युत्थानमधर्मस्य तदात्मानं सृजाम्याहम् ।।”

(गीता 4.7)

अर्थात् जब धर्म की हानि होती है और अधर्म का उत्थान होता है तब मैं अवतार लेता हूँ।

अवतार का प्रयोजन आगे स्पष्ट करते हैं –

“परित्राणाय साधूनां विनाशाय च दुष्कृताम् । धर्मसंस्थापनार्थाय सम्भवामि युगे युगे ।।”

(गीता 4.8)

अर्थात् सज्जनों की रक्षा करने के लिए, दुष्टों का संहार करने के लिए तथा धर्म की पुन: प्रतिष्ठा करने के लिए मैं हर युग में अवतार लेता हूँ।

विचार किया जाए तो किसी व्यक्ति, वस्तु या घटना की प्रासङ्गिकता अथवा समसामयिकता का निर्धारण एवं मूल्याङ्कन, काल तथा प्रयोजन के अधीन (सापेक्ष्य) है। ऊपर के भगवदुक्त श्लोकों से स्पष्ट है कि अपने अवतरण हेतु उचित काल तथा प्रयोजन-विशेष का निर्धारण जगत-नियंता (ईश्वर) के ही हाथ में है। अत:, सामान्य रूप से विचार करने पर सर्वाधिक-सर्वथा-उचित काल में समसामयिक व प्रासङ्गिक उद्देश्य से युक्त भगवत-अवतरणों की तत्तत्कालीन प्रासङ्गिकता स्वत: स्पष्ट हो जाती है । चूंकि, काल-क्रम से अधर्म की वृद्धि व धर्म की हानि युग-धर्म है अत: प्रत्येक युग में अवतारों की प्रासंगिकता भी उतनी ही रहेगी । किसी एक अवतार-विशेष को, चाहे वह परशुराम हों या अन्य कोई, इससे अलग  रखकर विचार नहीं किया जा सकता है। भगवदवतरणों के सम्बन्ध में (प्रासंगिकता, समसामयिकता और महत्त्व पर) इससे अधिक कहना पिष्टपेषण (चबाये हुए को चबाना) ही होगा क्यूंकि, उस विषय में भगवान स्वयं ही वचनबद्ध हैं-

“यदा यदा ही धर्मस्य ग्लानिर्भवति भारत। अभ्युत्थानमधर्मस्य तदात्मानं सृजाम्याहम्।।

(और उनसे अधिक काल और कालानुरूप प्रासङ्गिकता को कौन जान सकता है!!)

वैसे विचार किया जाए तो, प्रत्येक अवतार एक नायक ही तो है । इन अलौकिक नायकों (अवतारों) से इतर, समाज को नई दिशा दिखाने वाले स्वामी विवेकानन्द सदृश विशिष्ट-शक्ति-सम्पन्न लौकिक नायकों की प्रासंगिकता तो हर युग में रहेगी ही और फिर वर्तमान में तो, युग-धर्म के कारण, नितान्त अशक्त और नाना प्रकार के जञ्जालों में फंसे हुए मानवों के लिए, ऐसे नायकों का सम्पूर्ण जीवन-चरित्र ही प्रेरणादायक और अनुकरणीय होने के कारण और भी प्रासंगिक है। ऐसे में न केवल प्रभु के सभी रूप (अवतार) प्रासङ्गिक नज़र आते हैं अपितु इन अवतारों का स्मरण, अनुकीर्तन आदि ही समस्त दुखों का नाश करने वाला बन जाता है । कहा ही है –

“यस्य स्मरणमात्रेण जन्मसंसारबन्धनात्। विमुच्यते नमस्तस्मै विष्णवे प्रभविष्णवे।।”

जहां तक प्रश्न अवतारों के वर्ग (जाति) का है (विशेषकर, परशुराम अवतार में), मेरी समझ से अवतारों को जातिगत-दृष्टि से देखना किसी भी व्यक्ति के लिए (चाहे वह इतर अवतारों की अपेक्षा, अवतार-विशेष में विशिष्ट प्रीति रखने वाला हो या उसके विरुद्ध विचार या आचरण वाला हो) कतई न्यायपूर्ण या तर्कपूर्ण नहीं है। यह तो न सिर्फ उल्टे भगवान् को ही बांटने जैसा हो गया बल्कि उसकी अवतार-व्यवस्था के मूल पर ही आघात करने जैसा है क्यूंकि, जिसका अवतरण ही समाज को धर्मयुक्त व संगठित करना तथा समाज का कल्याण करना है उसको (विरोधी विचार रखने वालों के द्वारा) धर्म-विशेष, जाति-विशेष का प्रतिनिधिभूत मानकर अवतारविशेष के प्रति अरुचि या अश्रद्धा का भाव रखना अथवा कुछ दिग्भ्रमित लोगों के द्वारा, उस अवतार-विशेष को केवल अपने ही वर्ग का गौरव बताना नितान्त भ्रमोत्पादक व कलहोत्पादक है ।

परशुराम जी के विषय में एक अन्य बड़ा प्रश्न यह उपस्थित होता है कि जब वह अवताररूप हैं तब अन्य अवतारों की भांति उनका पुनर्गमन क्यूँ नहीं हुआ और वे चिरजीवी कैसे रह गये? वस्तुत: वैष्णव-परम्परा में परिगणित दश अवतारों में परशुराम आवेशावतार माने गए हैं अर्थात्, भगवदंश का आवेश उनमें है इसीलिये वे अंशावतार कहे गए हैं। आवश्यकता पड़ने पर, भगवदंश से आविष्ट परशुराम जी ने अपने अवतरण का प्रयोजन सार्थक किया और भविष्य में भी तादृश परिस्थिति उत्पन्न होने पर परब्रह्म (वैष्णवागम में प्रभु विष्णु) की प्रेरणा से वह पुन: अपने अवतरण को सार्थक कर सकें एतदर्थ ही वे चिरजीवी भी हैं। कहने का आशय यह है कि सामान्यत: वे मनुष्य-रूप होने के कारण चिरजीवी हैं किन्तु, परिस्थिति-विशेष में उनका, अन्तस्थ भगवदंशरूप आवेशावतार लोक-कल्याणार्थ प्रकटित होता है ।

 उपसंहार

सुनीति एवं सद्धर्म ही उन्नति का सर्वोत्तम मार्ग है। अतः, जो अधर्म एवं कुरीतियों का हटाकर इनकी प्रतिष्ठा करते हैं, वो महापुरुष कहलाते हैं। भगवान् परशुराम ने तत्कालीन समाज में व्याप्त अनैतिकता एवं राक्षसी प्रवृत्तियों का समूलोच्छेद करके सनातन धर्म की स्थापना की। निश्चय ही भगवदंशावतार श्री परशुराम का इतिवृत्त एवं जीवन-चरित्र का सतत अनुशीलन न केवल हमें अपने देश के गौरवशाली इतिहास का दिग्दर्शन कराता है अपितु अपनी संस्कृति व सभ्यता के रक्षार्थ सतत प्रेरणा का भी संचार करता है।

-डॉ. श्यामदेवमिश्र, सहायकाचार्य (ज्योतिष), राष्ट्रिय-संस्कृत-संस्थान, भोपाल परिसर,भोपाल, म.प्र.

श्री परशुराम का जीवन-चरित्र

डॉ. श्यामदेवमिश्रbhagwan parshuram

भारतीय इतिहास में समय-समय पर विभिन्न युगों में अनेकों क्रान्तियां हुई हैं। जिनका नेतृत्व स्वयं ईश्वर ने अपनी विशिष्ट विभूतियों (अवतारों) के रूप में किया है। इस आलेख में ऐसी एक भगवदंशभगवान् परशुराम की ऐतिहासिक चर्चा की जा रही है, जो कि वर्तमान काल में अतिप्रासङ्गिक एवं प्रेरणास्पद हैं।

सत्युग के आरम्भ में द्विजातियों में श्रेष्ठ जाति ब्राह्मणों की मानी जाती थी। नित्य यज्ञ-यागादिकर्म करना-कराना, षडङ्गवेदाध्ययन करना-कराना, दान लेना-देना यही इनके मुख्यकर्म थे। इसमें श्रुति स्वयं ही प्रमाण है – ‘विद्या ह वै ब्राह्मणमाजगाम गोपाय मा शेवधिष्टेऽहमस्मि।’ अतः ‘ब्राह्मणाय निष्कारणो हिषडङ्गो वेदोऽध्येतव्यः’ की परम्परा ने ब्राह्मणों को अमित-अगणित-अमोघ तेजस्विता के कारण ‘भूसुर’ की संज्ञा से विभूषित किया था। इन भूसुरों के अमोघ ब्रह्मतेज के सामने परमशक्तिशाली सम्राट् तो क्या देवेन्द्र तक की समस्त शक्तियाँ कुण्ठित हो जाती थीं। उनकी अमित तेजस्विता, ज्ञान-विज्ञान के बल के सामने वायु जैसी सर्वव्यापिनी और सूक्ष्म शक्ति, जल जैसा सर्वव्यापी सरल तत्त्व, विद्युत् जैसा चञ्चल और सर्वसंहारकतेज, सभी अवनत एवं आज्ञानुवर्ती थे।

भगवान् परशुराम के अवतरण का कारण –

काल सबको सर्वदा एक सी अवस्था में नहीं रखता है। कहा है- ‘कालः क्रमेण जगतः परिवर्तनमानः।‘ उत्थान के बाद पतन तथा पतन के बाद उत्थान, संसार के सभी पार्थिव पदार्थों की यही गति है।’ सत्युग के आरम्भ एवं मध्य में जिस ब्रह्मण्य धर्म का अमित तेजोमय भास्कर नभोमण्डित था, कर्त्तव्य एवं दायित्व में शिथिलता के कारण वह युग के समाप्त होते-होते अस्तङ्गमित होने लगा। परलोक-प्राप्ति या मोक्ष-प्राप्ति की आशा में तल्लीन, समाज से विरत उदासीन ब्राह्मणों की सांसारिक दायित्वों (अर्थात् शास्त्रोचित कर्त्तव्याकर्त्तव्य-व्यवस्था का उपदेश, मन्त्रणा इत्यादि) के प्रति विमुखता से ऐश्वर्य सम्पन्नक्षत्रियों के मन में सर्वश्रेष्ठ बनने की कुहेलिका कामना बलवती हो गई। सद्बुद्धि, शान्ति, आत्मबल इत्यादि को तुच्छ समझने वाले राजाओं को देव-पूजा एवं ब्राह्मण-पूजा आदि से अश्रद्धा हो गई। फलतः दत्तात्रेय के वर-प्रभाव से अजेय बल सम्पन्नएवं अप्रतिम ऐश्वर्यशाली हैहयवंश-कुलोत्पन्न माहिष्मतीपुरी के महाराज कार्त्तवीर्य अर्जुन के नेतृत्त्व में पथभ्रष्ट क्षत्रियों ने ब्राह्मणों का न सिर्फ अपमान किया प्रत्युत उन पर भीषण अत्याचार किए। पददलित-दीन ब्राह्मणों एवं अपमानित देवगणों द्वारा कार्त्तवीर्य के मान-भञ्जन पर विचारार्थ अमरावती नगरी में प्रजापति ब्रह्मा की अध्यक्षता में षाण्मासिक गोष्ठी का आयोजन किया गया। गोष्ठी में हुई मन्त्रणा के आधार पर सभी ने दुर्दान्त राजाओं के पाप-भार से दुःखी वसुन्धरा को भगवान् विष्णु के समीप गोलोकधाम भेजा। भगवान् विष्णु ने वसुन्धरा की करुण प्रार्थना को सुनकर उसे सान्त्वना देते हुए कहा कि – ‘‘मैं शीघ्र ही तुम्हारा एवं देव-द्विजगणों का अभीष्ट साधन करूँगा। महर्षि ऋचीक की घोर तपस्या से प्रसन्नहोकर मैं उन्हें एक वर दे चुका हूँ जिसकी पूर्ति हेतु मेरी एक विभूति ‘परशुराम’ इस नाम से उनके पुत्र जमदग्नि के घर में जन्म लेगी। उसके जीवन का व्रत अन्याय व अत्याचारों का समूल नाश कर ब्रह्मण्य-सनातन धर्म की पुनः प्रतिष्ठा करना होगा। अतः तुम प्रसन्नहोकर जाओ एवं दीनों, ब्राह्मणों व देवगणों को आश्वस्त कर दो।’’ 

भगवान् परशुराम का अवतरण –

उक्त घटना के प्रायः बारह वर्ष बाद, भगवान विष्णु ने सरस्वती आश्रम में महर्षि ऋचीक के पुत्र महर्षि जमदग्नि के घर, सर्वगुण-सम्पन्नसूर्यप्रभाप्रदीपित, परशुचिह्नयुक्त परशुराम रूप में सनातन-धर्म की पुनः प्रतिष्ठापनार्थ माता रेणुका के गर्भ से अवतार लिया। स्कन्द एवं भविष्यपुराण के अनुसार भगवान् परशुराम का जन्म वैशाख मास के शुक्लपक्ष की तृतीया तिथि को पुनर्वसु नक्षत्र में रात्रि के प्रथम प्रहर (प्रायः प्रदोष काल) में, हुआ। उस समय 6 ग्रह उच्च के थे। जयदेव कहते हैं –

क्षत्रियरुधिरमये जगदपगतपापं स्नपयसि पयसि शमितभवतापम्।

केशव धृतभृगुपतिरूपम्। जय जगदीश हरे।। (गीतगोविन्द)

भगवान् विष्णु ने परशुराम अंश के रूप में उस भृगु कुल में अवतार लिया जिस भृगु के पाद-प्रहार को अपने वक्षःस्थल पर सहा। इसी भृगुवंश में उत्पन्न होने के कारण वे भार्गव’ कहलाए। इनके चार भाई विश्वावसु, वसु, सुषेण एवं रूमोद्वान् इनसे क्रमशः आयु में बड़े थे। कालान्तर में युवा परशुराम को साक्षात् भगवान् शिव से धनुर्विद्या के साथ-साथ अष्टधातु-निर्मित भीषण, अमोघ एवं सर्वजयी परशु प्राप्त हुआ।

पितृ-मातृभक्त परशुराम –

एक बार पितृभक्त परशुरामजी ने अपने पिता जमदग्नि से आज्ञा पाकर बिना एक क्षण गंवाए अपनी माता रेणुका का मस्तक धड़ से अलग कर डाला। अपने पुत्र की पितृ-भक्ति से प्रसन्नजमदग्नि ने मातृ-शोक से सन्तप्त परशुराम की विनती पर पुनः उनकी माता को जीवित कर दिया।

कार्त्तवीर्य का वध एवं दुष्ट राजाओं का संहार –

सोलह दिन व्यापी निर्जल उपवास के बाद द्वादशी के व्रत की पारणा की शान्ति के लिए महर्षि जमदग्नि अतिथि-सत्कार में तत्पर हुए। अतिथि के रूप में आश्रम में ससैन्य उपस्थित महाराज कार्तवीर्य अर्जुन का दो दिनों तक, अपने तपोबल से प्राप्त ‘नन्दा’ नामक कामधेनु की सहायता व योगबल के द्वारा अनेकों दुर्लभ, रमणीय वस्तुओं व सुस्वादु भोजन से, महर्षि ने यथोचित् सत्कार किया। दो दिन पश्चात् गमन-काल में अनुकूल अवसर देखकर महाराज कार्तवीर्य अर्जुन उनके सामने उपस्थित हुए तथा महर्षि जमदग्नि के आश्रम में स्थित ‘नन्दा’ नामक कामधेनु को लेने की प्रार्थना की। किन्तु महर्षि द्वारा विनम्रतापूर्वक मना करने पर, राजा ने सक्रोध उन्हें अपमानित करके मृत्युदण्ड तक देने का निश्चय किया। फलतः अर्जुन के पुत्रों ने महर्षि जमदग्नि का वध कर दिया। इस अमानुषिक दुष्कृत्य ने परशुराम को विह्वल कर दिया। परशुराम की क्रोध रूपी दावाग्नि ने उनको आततायी राजाओं के संहारक साक्षात् यमराज के रूप में परिणत कर दिया। उन्होंने सम्पूर्ण भारतवर्ष के अन्यायी एवं पथभ्रष्ट राजाओं का समूलनाश करके सनातन धर्म प्रतिष्ठित करने का प्रण कर लिया।

धर्म की स्थापना हेतु परशुराम का चतुर्दिक विजय अभियान –

परशुराम ने भारत के दक्षिण प्रान्त से अपना अभियान प्रारम्भ किया तथा सर्वप्रथम श्वेतद्वीप के राजा श्वेतकेतु को परास्त कर वहाँ सनातन-धर्म की स्थापना की। तत्पश्चात् दक्षिणेश्वर महाराज वृषकेतु को परास्त करने के बाद 12 दिन के युद्ध के अनन्तर पश्चिम की ओर पारण प्रदेश पर भी विजय हासिल की। दक्षिण के अवशिष्ट राज्यों ने भयवशात् वैदिक-धर्म की पुनः प्रतिष्ठा स्वीकार कर ली। पारण से आगे राजा जीमूतवाहन के प्रणवप्रस्थ नामक नगर पर अधिपत्य स्थापित किया। इसके बाद परशुराम ने भारत के पूर्वराज्यों बङ्ग, उपबङ्ग, कलिङ्गऔर स्वमन्त्र में आततायी राजाओं का नाश करके सनातन धर्म प्रतिष्ठापित किया।

निःक्षत्रियामकृतगां च त्रिसप्तकृत्वो रामस्तु हैहयकुलोऽप्ययभार्गवाग्निः।। (भागवत्, 11/4/21)

इस प्रकार सम्पूर्ण भारतवर्ष में सनातन धर्म की पुनः स्थापना के उपरान्त भगवान् परशुराम महर्षि कश्यप को धरती देकर (संरक्षक नियुक्त कर) स्वयं महेन्द्र पर्वत पर रहने लगे।

-डॉ. श्यामदेवमिश्र, सहायकाचार्य (ज्योतिष), राष्ट्रिय-संस्कृत-संस्थान, भोपाल परिसर, भोपाल, म.प्र.

Day of Rama-Janma : Chaitra Shukla Navami (29 November 12240 BCE)

Nilesh during debate in New Delhi

– Mr. Nilesh Nilkanth Oak

As we celebrate the birth day of Shri Rama, we will ponder on various aspects of Maryada-Purushottma Rama and of our Adi-kavya – Valmiki’s Ramayana. One of the significant and curious aspects, for many, is the history and chronology of Shri Rama and thus Ramayana.

Valmiki Ramayana presents us with more than 500 specific astronomy and chronology references. Some of the specific references from this list allow us to determine broad timeline for the chronology of the Ramayana while some other allow us to nail down timing for the specific instances of Ramayana, and the remaining references allow us to check if our assertions are correct.

Four references from four different kanda of Valmiki Ramayana (Ayodhya 3:34, Aryanya 16:12, Kishkindha 53:9 and Yuddha 4:48) place lower limit of 10,000 BCE as the boundary for the chronology of Ramayana, i.e., the incidents of Ramayana did not occur even a day later than 10,000 BCE. These four independent observations of seasons and astronomy phenomenon also create upper boundary of 17,000 BCE, for the chronology of Ramayana.

A solitary observation of a comet afflicting nakshatra Mula was key to determine 12209 BCE as the year of Rama-Ravana yuddha. This year (12209 BCE) as the year when Shri Rama went to Lanka, along with Laxman, Sugriva, Hanuman and other Vanara warriors and Vanara army, can be combined with chronological narrations of Valmiki Ramayana to determine timing for numerous instances of Ramayana, such as 12240 BCE being the year of Rama-Janma, 12223 BCE as the year when Rama left Ayodhya, along with Laxman and Sita, for 14 year-long Vanavas. These dates were further corroborated by hundreds of additional seasonal and astronomy observations of Valmiki Ramayana.

Ram-Navami-2015-Images-HD-1024x768

(Source of Image : http://yepindia.com)

A question may be raised that if Rama was born in the month of November as per Julian/Gregorian calendar computations, how come we celebrate it in the month of March/April (Gregorian calendar) in our times? The answer to this important question is the astronomy phenomenon known as ‘Precession of Equinoxes’. One of the key consequences of this phenomenon is that seasons shift by about one lunar month every 2000 years. Thus, while Valmiki Ramayana descriptions of lunar month of Chaitra are that of Sharad rutu (season); after about 14,000 years, lunar month of Chaitra falls during the second half of Vasanta rutu (season) and thus during end of March and beginning of April.

In fact, this fact was lost on dozen plus Ramayana researchers who were curious to determine the timing of Ramayana and this resulted in their proposing a timeline that cannot match with the descriptions of Valmiki Ramayana. For example, Late Shri Pushkar Bhatnagar proposed 10 January 5114 BCE as the day of Rama-Janma. This day falls during the peak of winter and thus the problem with this day is that it neither agrees with descriptions of Valmiki Ramayana nor it agrees with mistakenly assumed time of Vasanata rutu by Shri Pushkar Bhatnagar. And this wrong starting point resulted in erroneous chronology.

We can learn from Valmiki Ramayana that star Brahmarashi, also known as Abhijit or Vega, was the north pole star at the time of Ramayana as described by Laxman, or the lunar month of Ashwin occurred during the Vasanta rutu. Thus, if we compare the timing of seasons and Indian lunar months of our time, we realize that the seasons have shifted with respect to lunar month by about 6 months, i.e. exactly halfway through 26000 years long cycle of the precession of equinoxes.  This means we have documented records of Indian civilization going back to about 14000 years.

Further, we can combine narration of King Trishanku from Valmiki Ramayana and from Mahabharata and combine it with knowledge of astronomy to determine 13000 BCE as the timing of King Trishanku.  This means our Indian history has documented chronology of at least 15,000 years.

Of course, one may wonder if it is reasonable to make such claims, based on one stream of evidence, i.e., chronology of Ramayana. Fortunately, this is not the case.  We can combine evidence from various branches of scientific disciplines – geology, hydrology, anthropology, genetics, genealogies of Kings and genealogies of Rishis that are responsible for various ‘suktas’ and ‘mandalas’ of Rigveda to present additional clues to this deep antiquity of Indian civilization.

For example, descriptions of river Sarasvati from Rigveda, Valmiki Ramayana and Mahabharata allow us to trace the changes in the condition of river Sarasvati that matches very well from what we know today via geology, hydrology and climatology. Geology evidence tells us that river Yamuna separated from river Sarasvati as early as 50,000 BCE and before 9000 BCE, and this evidence is consistent with descriptions of rivers not only for Yamuna, but also for river Sarasvati and river Sutlej (Shatudri).  Modern discoveries in genetics also tell us that the Indian gene pool is very old and practically unchanged for last 20,000 plus years. Indian civilization and its narrative tradition has cleverly amalgamated science, history, art, adhyatma, medicine and peaceful living in a single tradition without any strains among its various pursuits.

Indian civilization combined these multifaceted aspects of civilization around numerous festivals it celebrates. We glean from even stray references of Valmiki Ramayana and Mahabharata of a tradition of Indra-dhwaja festival that was celebrated during the Vasanta rutu (season) and during the lunar month of Ashwin in Ramayana times (13th millennium BCE) and that was continued to be celebrated through Mahabharata times and it is also celebrated in our times with both its old and new names. Whether it is Tamil Sangam literature or the living ‘natha’ tradition of Nepal, both refer to it as Indra-dhwaja (Indra Viza) festival. And, while tradition of Nepal continues to celebrate it during the lunar month of Ashwin, as was done in Ramayana times, state of Maharashtra celebrates it on the first day of lunar month of Chaitra with ‘Gudhi (Dhwaja) Padava’. The times and style may change with changing times; however, the age-old tradition is preserved and celebrated throughout this land of Bharata-varsha.

It is in this very spirit, let’s celebrate 5 April 2017 CE, as the birth day of our dear Shri Rama.  Jai Sri Rama!

– Mr. Nilesh Nilkanth Oak, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, USA.

 

‘Why Rama killed Vali?’ Valmiki Ramayana Answers…

Prof. Shashi Tiwari, General Secretary, WAVES-India 

Vālmīki-Rāmāyaṇa is a regarded as a Dharmaś́āstra which exemplifies the Vedic Values. Vālmīki lays great emphasis on Dharma or righteousness, the principle that upholds society and country. To serve mankind is the greatest virtue for a king or administrator, according to Rāmāyaṇa. Rāma is called Puruṣaṛṣ̣abha (best human being) whose inspiration was truthful moral life.Sarva-bhūta-hite rataḥ’ (always busy in the welfare of all) was his social ideal. The Rāmāyaṇa consists of 24,000 verses in seven books (kāṇḍas). The fourth book, Kiṣkindhā Kāṇḍa, describes the meeting of Hanum̄an with Rāma, the destruction of the vānara king Vālī and the coronation of his younger brother Sugrīva to the throne of the kingdom of Kiṣkindhā.

Rāma was an exiled prince but was still behaving as a king because Bharata had not accepted kingship officially and moreover he was not sitting on the royal throne (Raja-siṁhāsana) of Ayodhyā.  Rāma was performing all political duties related to the welfare and protection of his subjects while he was in kingdom or in forest during exile. At the time, when Sri Rāma was preparing himself for Vanavāsa, he left all decorative ornaments and dresses to be dressed in Munivastra Valkala. Without fail he kept his Dhanuṣa, and tarakasa for the protection of state and its people, living in the city or  forest.  After accepting the appeal of Lakṣmaṇa to accompany him in the exile, Rāma ordered him immediately to bring his divine weapons, preserved by  Guru Vasiṣṭha.

One question is often raised – why did Rāma choose the weaker of the two brothers as his ally? Kabandha advised Rāma to seek the friendship of Sugrīva, who knew the geography and the topography of the world and who was in trouble like Rāma. Sugrīva will be a proper ally because he needed Rāma’s help and Rāma needed his help. Between the two placed in similar situations there will be a subtle bond of friendship. Further, Shri Rāma offered friendship to Sugrīva, and not to king Vālī, because he found him careless as a king who could not notice the evil act of Rāvaṇa taking away Sītā all the way through sky, while Sugrīva and Hanumān observed that carefully.

Later Rāma killed Vālī from behind a tree, and that too when Vālī was engaged in battle with other man. Vālī called this action of Rāma as immoral deed which is not supported by dharma (Ram. IV.17.52). Śri Rāma replied and consoled Vālī with words that contain the essence of righteousness ‘dharma’. He scolded him, ‘you don’t know the true meaning of Dharma. You know no law, no restraint’. It is important to see how Rāma tried to refute the allegations brought against him by Vālī.

 Back-To-Godhead-Bali-Maharaj-With-Lord-Rama-Laxmana

The first argument against Vālī’s accusation is: ‘this earth, with its mountains, woods, and forests are under the sway of Ikṣavākus. They take it upon themselves to protect or punish the beasts, birds and men within their empire.  Truthful and righteous Bharata sits on their throne at present. He is the soul of truth and honor. He himself has assumed the charge of protecting this land. He puts forth his strength and valour against his foes even as the shatras would have it.  He always acts in the right time and place. We and some other kings rule under him according to kingly tradition and roam the earth to bring law and order among his subjects. Who would dare to defy dharma when that noble king rules the earth? We shall consider how we shall punish them who go astray’ (Ram.IV.18.6).

It means in exile also Rāma was with delegation of royal powers. On the basis of Tilaka’s commentary we may say that though Bharata did not give such authority to Rāma at Citrakūṭa, implication may be drawn here about such authority. When Bharata was king his power spread to his relations and naturally Rāma had a share of it. After the debate it was arranged that Rāma should in law be king and that Bharata should be his regent.  The person who delegated the authority certainly could act for him or resume back the authority. Vālī may be an independent king of Kiṣkindhā, but what Rāma enunciated, was the law in Āryāvarta.

Ram’s second justification to Vālī was on moral grounds. Vālī has ravished the spouse of his younger brother called Rumā, and it is Kṣatriya dharma to punish all those who violate moral rules and commit sins. Rāma said, ‘You blinded with lust has done this crime which could not be ignored. I know of no other punishment than this for you.’

The third argument was that he has made a promise to friend Sugrīva to protect him. Rama explained, ‘Sugrīva is dear friend to me even as Lakṣmaṇa, and in consequence, he should be restored to his crown and wife. He even seeks my welfare. Further, you are the foe of Sugrīva that has won my friendship, then according to the rules of kingly polity, you are my enemy too. To help a friend in distress is also considered dharma. So view it from any point; I have given you this punishment according to dharma. We, kings, have to act according to Shāstra. Moreover, if a person, after doing sinful act, accepts and enjoys punishment given by a king, then he becomes pure and goes to Swarga’ (Ram.18.29-32).

Further, on the objection ‘why he was killed from behind’ Rāma pointed out, ‘Kings used to do hunting of animals with all tactics. They don’t view it as a fault. Similarly, it is no crime to kill you whether you attack me or not.’ Hearing these words of R̄ama, V̄alī proclaimed with deep repentance, ‘Noble Sir! You speak about dharma and beyond the shadow of a doubt. I confess that I went back upon dharma and allied myself with vice and injustice. Please extend your forgiveness and protection unto me.’

Here we may see that Rāma explained that his action is not a crime at all.  In this reference, another good reason of Rama’s action is well-known. Sītā was abducted by Rāvaṇa, a powerful king of South. This abduction was an insult which had to be avenged.  To accomplish this purpose, Rāma needed powerful allies who could help him in this great task and therefore, he was constrained to enter into negotiations with those chiefs who were desirous of kingdom but were driven away, or who wished to join Rāma in the hope of securing a kingdom in return.  Killing of Vālī was thus a means to get huge support of vānara army to fulfill objective of the welfare of the subjects.

Thus, Śri Rāma did the service of nation following the morals of Rājadharma for being a designated forthcoming king and a Kṣatriya during his exile.  We know that he was not fighting for the expansion of his kingdom; and hence he crowned noble Sugrīva on the throne of Kiṣkindhā after killing Vālī. Till today Rama is regarded as the embodiment of Dharma and a famous quote says, Rāmadivat pravartitavyam na rāvaṇādivat’ i.e., ‘one should act like Rāma and not like Rāvaṇa.

Rediscovering Rama (Part-II)

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Continued from Part-I

Even if, for the sake of argument, we do take into account the interpolation of the Uttara Kanda as part of the Ramayana, the story of Sita’s banishment cannot be read to be sexist or oppressive.  It is rather a tale of pathos, tragedy, and sympathy for the plight of both Sita and Rama.

Nowhere in the Ramayana do the main characters truly doubt Sita’s purity. What is being shown, however, is the fickleness of public perception, and the lesson being taught is the need to pay heed to the words and concerns of a king’s subjects, the duty to put the interests and desires of the subjects of one’s kingdom above the desires of the king and queen themselves. Lakshmana in many ways fills the role of everyman in the poem: his anger at the agni pariksha and banishment of Sita, his anger at Dasaratha for depriving Rama of his crown, his sense of despair when he must leave Sita at the forest, these are what we all feel upon reading the Ramayana.  This is indeed what the poet Valmiki intends us to feel.  The ability of Rama to, however, transcend these feelings, to put Dharma first, above his own heart and heartbreak—that is what makes him stand apart as the Maryada Puroshottam and what makes his reign forever hallowed as Rama Rajya.

Even in the worst moments of Uttara Kanda, the cruel, heartless Rama that others would have us believe hatefully cast away Sita simply does not exist.  There is a beautiful passage that describes the bliss shared by Sita and Rama during their time back in Ayodhya after Ravana was vanquished:

Rama and Sita would spend the second half of every day together in Rama’s Ashoka-grove, enjoying heavenly music and dance and partaking of gourmet food and intoxicating drinks.  It is said, Taking in his hand the pure nectar of flowers as intoxicating as the Maireyaka wine, Rama…made Sita drink it, just as Indra does Sachi…Seated in the company of the celebrated Sita, [Rama] shone with splendour like Vasishta seated along with Arundhati.  Rama, steeped in joy like gods, afforded delight thus day after day to…Sita, who resembled a divine damsel.’ (Srimad Valmiki-Ramayana (With Sanskrit Text and English Translation), Gita Press, Gorakhpur (Sixth Edition 2001), Book 7, Canto 42, Verses 19 and 24 (Volume 2, p. 819))

It is at such a moment that one day Sita informs Rama that she is pregnant.  Delighted at this revelation, Rama asks her to name a desire of hers that he will immediately fulfil.  Sita responds, O Raghava! I wish to visit the holy penance-groves and to stay, O Lord!, at the feet of sages…living on the banks of the Ganga … This is my greatest wish that I should stay even for one night in the penance-grove of those who live only on fruits and (edible) roots’ (Id., Verses 33-34, (Volume 2, p. 820).  Rama promises that she will be taken there for a visit the very next day.

Immediately afterwards, in the evening, Rama is informed by a spy of negative gossip surrounding Sita.  Rama is told that he is being rebuked by the people of Ayodhya as follows:  ‘Why does not Rama censure [Sita], who formerly had been forcibly carried away by Ravana? … Such conduct of our wives shall have to be suffered by us also, since whatever a king does, the subjects follow’ (Id., Canto 43, (Volume 2, p. 821).

When the gossip has been confirmed by others, Rama summons his brothers and tells them of the news.  He attests to his own certainty of Sita’s purity:  ‘To convince me Sita at that time entered the fire:  before you, O Lakshmana (son of Sumitra), Fire-god, the bearer of oblations to gods declared that Sita was free from sins, so also Vayu, who dwells in the sky, (so also) proclaimed the two—sun and moon, before the gods, Sita free from sins, before all the Rishis.  In Lanka, Sita, (Pure of conduct), has been handed over to me by Mahendra (the lord of gods), in the presence of the gods and the Gandharvas and my inner conscience bears testimony to her purity and nobility’ (Id., Canto 45, (Volume 2, p. 824).

However, it is the danger of infamy and the risk it poses to his ability to rule effectively that causes Rama to drive away Sita.  He tells his brothers, ‘O heroes among men, afraid of ill-report, I can even give up my life or all of you together, O bull among men, how much it is incumbent to leave Sita.  All of you see me submerged in the ocean of sorrow.  I do not see any greater misfortune than this’ (Id., Canto 45, Verses 13-16 (Volume 2, p. 825).

It is not doubt about Sita’s chastity that drives Rama towards this terrible deed but rather the dread realization that in order to safeguard his kingdom and his reputation among his subjects, he must go against what he knows to be true in the depths of his inner conscience.  The takeaway here is not that wives are easily discarded but rather the terrible price Dharma often exacts upon us, and more specifically, how beholden even the most powerful of kings are to the most humble of subjects.  It is after all in Rama Rajya that even a dog has a voice in court.  (Once, a dog appeared in Rama’s court to complain of being beaten by a man, and Rama duly gave the dog justice and punished the perpetrator).

One may also speculate that in accordance with the ancient principles of Garbhasamskar (prenatal education), Rama may have wanted to protect Sita from the distress of being surrounded by such poisonous rumours.  Stress and anxiety is not desirable during pregnancy, as every thought, feeling, emotion, action of the mother has tremendous impact on the child in the womb.  It may be that the ashram of Vasishtha was the best place for her during this part of Sita’s life and the best environment in which to raise Lava and Kusha to become the great heroes they grew up to be.

The Ramayana shows us that the king is beholden to the lowest of his subjects, even a crass, gossip-mongering person.  The cost of infamy, of earning a bad name before his subjects no matter how unfairly, is too dear to pay for a sovereign whose first duty must be to safeguard the interests of his kingdom and to preserve his reign.  A celebrated Sanskrit shloka proclaims, yatha bhumis tatha toyam, yatha bijam tathankurah / yatha deshas tatha bhasha, yatha raja tatha praja (As the land so the [ground] water; as the seed so the sprout; as the region [country] so the language; as the king so the people).  This is the entire theme of the Ramayana.  Rama must always hold himself to the highest standards, to be above reproach (even unfair reproach), to serve as the role model that the king is meant to be.

As  Sri Aurobindo advises in his writings on the Epics of India, while dealing with the human personality of Rama, one must take into account the  spirit  of his age and race:  I  consider myself  under  an obligation to enter into the  spirit,  significance, atmosphere  of  the Mahabharata, Iliad, Ramayana and  identify  myself with  their  time-spirit before I can feel what their heroes  were  in themselves apart from the details of their outer action’ (Volume: 22-23-24 [SABCL] (Letters on Yoga), 419).  It is of utmost importance that we must have a thorough knowledge of the yugadharma of the age of Ramayana and interpret the events accordingly.  We create needless confusion and conflicts when we interpret ancient texts in the context of present times and present yugadharma.  When interpreted in light of the yugadharma of the age of the Ramayana, it is clear that every action of Rama was flawless and he followed the maryada of the yugadharma.

Indeed, Rama’s life is meant to exemplify that of Maryada Purushottom.  He is the best among men who scrupulously observed and honoured the relevant ethics, customs and mores of the society in which he lived.  He is the one worthy of emulating—an ideal son, an ideal husband, an ideal brother, an ideal king, an ideal protector of Dharma, an ideal friend, who placed Dharma and honour above all else.  In this, Rama is different from Krishna.  Rama is Maryada Purushottom, whereas Krishna is the Sampoorna Avatar who often had to break the strictures of Dharma in order to protect Dharma.  Both are Vishnu, but their roles are different.  It is said that to approach Krishna, one must first worship and follow Rama.  Only then is one qualified to worship Krishna.

This is the worldview of Dharma that underpins Hindu thought and literature.  It is in stark contrast to Western individualistic romanticism that valorises the story of King Edward VIII of England who abdicated the throne in order to marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee.  In Hindu Dharma, a kingdom is not a toy or privilege to be thrown away at whim.  The totality of a king’s life must be devoted to his kingdom above all else; that is his svadharma that he must perform at all costs.

While the plight of Sita is truly terrible—she is perhaps Hinduism’s most famous and revered single mother—Rama is no less a victim.  He never takes another wife, so devoted is he to Sita.  Rather than take a second wife, he has an image of her constructed to be placed next to him during yajnas (because yajnas can only be performed by a man in the company of his wife).  Nor is his action in any way misogynistic.  It is not that Sita is badly treated because she is a woman and therefore inferior; in fact, later on in the Uttara Kanda, even Lakshmana is banished for the sake of preserving Rama’s honour and Dharma.  His entire life, Rama had to sacrifice that which was most beloved to him for the sake of Dharma—in order to protect his father’s word, he gave up the kingdom; similarly, when taking into account the Uttara Kanda, Rama has to sacrifice Sita and Lakshmana, those who were the closest to him.  As the Mahabharata instructs us, “For the sake of the family, the individual may have to be renounced; for the sake of the community, the family may have to be renounced; for the sake of the country, the community may have to be renounced; for the sake of the Self, the whole world may have to be renounced.”

My reading of the Valmiki Ramayana transformed my life.  I now turn to Rama for comfort, solace and peace, and always find it in his tender, compassionate gaze.  To know the love of Rama, simply chant the divinely powerful mantra, ‘Om Sri Ram, Jai Ram, Jai Jai Ram’.  This is one of the most powerful mantras, and the reason it is so often recited at the time of death is because of the ultimate peace it bestows upon the atman.

Do not just take my word for it.  Rediscover Rama on your own.  Dive into the ocean of the primary sources of the Ramayana.  It is a travesty that today the publication of our primary source texts and their authentic translations are languishing, while popular but unauthoritative interpretations or retellings are proliferating, leading to confusion and misperceptions of the truths of our shastras and Hindu tradition.  We must learn the Ramayana from the lips of Valmiki himself; the likes of Devdutt Pattanaik and Amish Tripathi cannot suffice or substitute.  We must go back to the source texts and traditions of Dharma to rediscover the glories of our Itihaasas and our deities.  With respect to Valmiki Ramayana, I would recommend the following as English sources (much better sources are available in Hindi and other vernacular languages; unfortunately, the choice in English is still rather limited): the Gita Press, Gorakhpur English translation of the unabridged text; the verse-by-verse translation provided on www.valmikiramayan.net; Kamala Subramaniam’s English translation (which although abridged is quite comprehensive) of the text; and Lectures on the Ramayana by V.S. Srinivasa Sastri.

– Ms. Aditi Banerjee, Board of Directors, World Association for Vedic Studies

Rediscovering Rama (Part-I)

– Ms. Aditi Banerjee, Board of Directors, World Association for Vedic Studies

Aditi 2Ms. Banerjee is a practicing attorney at a Fortune 500 financial services company.  She specializes in corporate tax law and worked in the New York and London offices of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP.  She co-edited the book, Invading the Sacred: An Analysis of Hinduism Studies in America.  She has published several essays on Hinduism and the Hindu-American experience in publications such as Outlook India and Swarajya, including “Hindu-Americans: An Emerging Identity in an Increasingly Hyphenated World”, which was included in The Columbia Documentary History of Religion in America since 1945 and “Hindu Pride”, which was included in Buddhists, Hindus, and Sikhs in America: A Short History (Religion in American Life). She earned her Juris Doctor from Yale Law School and received B.A. in International Relations, magna cum laude, from Tufts University.

Rama is one of the most exalted figures in all of Hinduism, yet we find him very much maligned today.  Scholars like Wendy Doniger accuse Rama of abandoning Sita because he was afraid of becoming a ‘sex addict’.  Movies like Sita Sings the Blues and Fire reinforce this stereotype of Rama as a patriarchal misogynist who oppressed and abused Sita.  Such interpretations have skewed public perceptions into thinking of Rama as a woman-hating, stuffy, self-righteous, sexist god-king.

In the face of such anti-Rama propaganda, it is hardly surprising that Rama has become unpopular in some pockets of the Hindu community.  As soon as his name is but uttered, modern Hindus immediately denounce him for his cruelty towards Sita.  But it is time that we start the process of rediscovering his glories, his true, effulgent nature, the sweetness and nobility of his personality and the manifold reasons why he is Maryada Purushottom.

A strange twist of events led me to Rama.  I have always been a devotee of Krishna, and up until several years ago, I thought of Rama as a stern, overly serious prince who could never laugh, sing or dance—in short, as a sad contrast to my ever mischievous and world-delighting Krishna.

Then, one day, my spiritual preceptor suggested that I add a particular picture of Rama to my puja room.  As I started worshiping that image, my heart began to soften towards Rama.  At the same time, I was reading a biography of a powerful siddha yogi who was a devout follower of Rama, and something interesting happened.  My iPod used to be on shuffle mode and I had thousands of songs to cycle through so that no one song repeated very frequently, but while I was reading that book, a particular kirtan on Rama (the Sri Ranamana Sankirtan as sung by monks of the Ramakrishna Mission) kept repeating on the shuffle mode, at least once a day and sometimes even more often.  That kirtan entranced me and made me love Rama and feel close to him.  I took it as a benediction from that great yogi.

Finally, I felt that I should read the Valmiki Ramayana.  I was determined to not rely on commentaries or popular retellings or heavily abridged versions, but to instead go for the most authentic translation that I could find in English of the unabridged text.  In delight, I discovered the Gita Press Gorakhpur translation.  I started reading it, and I was amazed.  Reading the Valmiki Ramayana is unlike reading any other book in the universe.  It fills you with tremendous peace and serenity.  The poetry of it is so pretty and poignant; the characters of Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Bharata, Hanuman, and so many others, shine forth with their idealism and nobility.  Most of all, the depiction of Rama is so utterly different from the vilified version of Rama fed to us by mainstream culture and media.

Valmiki’s Rama is tender, full of valour and noble idealism, deeply loving towards all of his family, a kind, compassionate, gentle young prince.  At the end of the war, when Indra grants him a boon, Rama asks that all the vanaras (members of the monkey army) who selflessly gave their lives for him in the war against the rakshasas be brought back to life.  That is the kindness of Rama.

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The love and adoration Rama has for Sita is unparalleled.  In their time together, he is ever solicitous of her comfort.  One of the most renowned commentators of the Valmiki Ramayana, the eloquent orator, V.S. Srinivasa Sastri, describes the time they spent together in Ayodhya immediately after their wedding as follows:

‘The Poet has no words good enough to describe the closeness of the union, of the ways in which husband pleased wife and wife pleased husband. …  They read each other’s thoughts readily; in fact these told each other what they wanted.  The tongue and the lips did not play any part nor perhaps did the eyes; heart spoke to heart.  Hridaya and hridaya commingled.  The desire of each was known to the other.  It is difficult to say who loved whom the more’ (Lectures on the Ramayana, The Rt. Hon. V. S. Srinivasa Sastri, Madras Samskrit Academy, 2006 (pp. 23-24).

One of my favourite stories from the Ramayana is the story of the crow.  Once, in Chitrakuta, Rama was sleeping with his head in Sita’s lap.  A crow appeared and pecked at Sita’s chest with its beak, causing her discomfort.  When Rama saw the suffering of Sita, although it was not serious, he became as enraged as a hissing snake, and with eyes rolling in anger, he took a blade of grass and charged it with the power of the Brahmastra missile, making that blade of grass blaze forth like the fire of universal dissolution, and hurled it at the crow.  Such was Rama’s devotion to Sita.

When Rama learns of Sita’s abduction by Ravana, he is so distraught and devastated, so utterly lost without her, that he can hardly function for his grief.  It is Lakshmana who has to rouse him to anger, to fight, to take action to win her back.  Sastri again describes this beautifully:

‘We have seen already that the love that drew Rama and Sita together was most remarkable.  When she was lost to him there was no limit to the grief that he bore … He could not find any rest being away from her.  He nearly went mad.  He wandered from place to place in the forest.  He raved.  He implored the trees and hills and rivers.  He threatened the gods with destruction of the world.  He threatened to take his own life.  Lakshmana was hard put to it to comfort him in this extreme sorrow’ (Id., p. 26). 

This is not the mark of a misogynistic man; this is the story of a man who deeply loved his wife but who simply loved honour (Dharma) more.

And that brings us to the event that has become the stick with which modernists so gleefully beat and defame Rama today—the banishment of Sita to the forest after their return to Ayodhya.  The main point to be made here is that the entire section of the story in which this incident takes place, the Uttara Kanda, is not accepted by experts of the Ramayana as part of the original Valmiki Ramayana.  In other words, the main crime of which Rama is accused is not even part of the original tale!  It is held to be a later interpolation.

The original version of Valmiki Ramayana ends after the Yuddha Kanda, upon Rama’s victory over Ravana and his and Sita’s triumphant return to Ayodhya.  The phala shruti of the Ramayana is also included at the end of the Yuddha Kanda, making it the logical ending point of the story since the phala shruti must occur at the end of a text and not in the middle of it.  Further, in the summary retelling of the Ramayana that is included in the Mahabharata, no mention is made of the incidents (including the banishment of Sita) that take place in the Uttara Kanda.  Finally, there are references to certain kingdoms and peoples in the Uttara Kanda that identify the verses as being of later origin than the original Ramayana.

Part 2 of this blog will examine the events of the Uttara Kanda and show how, even taking into account that later interpolation, Rama cannot be accused of being a misogynist or in any way evil or oppressive.

to be continued…..