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  Opinion   Columnists  29 Oct 2023  Pavan K. Varma | Celebrate Ram’s values, don’t politicise Ayodhya

Pavan K. Varma | Celebrate Ram’s values, don’t politicise Ayodhya

The writer, an author, former diplomat and is in politics.
Published : Oct 29, 2023, 12:11 am IST
Updated : Oct 29, 2023, 12:11 am IST

Ram’s message is clear: goodness has its own intrinsic power, and will always prevail over evil.

A replica of the proposed Ram Mandir. (PTI Image)
 A replica of the proposed Ram Mandir. (PTI Image)

Dussehra has just been celebrated with great enthusiasm and devotion across the country. Its essential message is that in Ram’s victory over Raavan, good conquered evil, right prevailed over wrong, and truth over falsehood. 

When we burn Ravan, and worship Ram, apart from the ritual, it is essential to understand why Ram, in the devotee’s mind, is unconditionally considered the embodiment of good, Maryada Purushottam, the epitome of rectitude, the touchstone of correct behaviour, the role model of the perfect human being. This is because of the values he stands for — values which are eternal or sanatan. There are those, especially women, who question this assessment, because of his treatment of Sita in the controversial Uttar Kand of the Ramayana of Valmiki, which is regarded as a later interpolation. But this part of the narrative does not exist in the Ramcharitmanas of Tulsidas (1574-1623 CE), which Mahatma Gandhi has called “the greatest book in all devotional literature”.

Ram, seen from Tulsi’s eyes, is indeed Maryada Purushottam, whose defeat of Ravan is a consequence of good prevailing over evil. I have studied the Manas deeply, and give here a few examples of why this is true.

When Ram is born, Tulsi celebrates this in the line: “Bhaye pragata kripala, deen dayala: The all merciful and the saviour of the weak, is born.” Ram’s mother, Kaushalya, is overawed that she has given birth to the Lord of the universe. But she seeks the simple joys of motherhood, and requests Ram to discard his divine form and become a child. Ram, the ever-obedient son, immediately obliges: “Suni bachan sujana rodan thana hoi baalak surbhoopa: Hearing these words the all-wise Lord of immortals became an infant and began to cry.”

For Tulsi, Ram is the ideal progeny. Kaikeyi is responsible for sending him to exile for 14 years, but Ram’s response to her has no anger or bitteness: “Sun jananai soi sutu badabhagi jo pitu matu bachan anuragi: Listen mother: that son alone is blessed who is devoted to the words of his parents.” For many of today’s generation this kind of blind fidelity to one’s parents, is neither necessary nor desirable. But there is, I believe, in parents still an expectation that their children will heed their advice and instructions to the greatest extent possible. Children too, in our culture, have a respect and love for their parents, which is perhaps less overt or substantive in many other societies, although in our case too, this is an increasingly endangered sentiment. However, Ram’s reflexive acceptance of his parent’s wishes, even if the main conspirator in his exile is his stepmother, and the saumya rasa, the calm amiability, with which he agrees to the unfair adversity imposed on him, has been held by millions as the adarsh or ideal role model of a dutiful son.

Ram is also the ideal husband.  On first seeing Sita in Janak’s garden before the syayamvar, he falls in love with her instantly, but unlike the lovable bar jori of Krishna, he is poetically restrained in his romantic passion: “Sundarta kahun sundar karai, chhabigraha deepshika janu barai: She lends beauty to beauty itself, like a blazing flame in a house of light.”

Ram is also the ideal friend. To Sugriva, Ram says: “Nija dukha giri sama raja jana, mitraka dukha raja meru samana: A man should regard his own troubles as a mere grain of sand, while those of his friend, even if trifling, like Mount Sumeru.” To Bali, who coveted his brother’s wife, he was emphatic in his condemnation: “Anuj badhu bhagini suta nari, sunu satha kanya sama e chari: Listen, O wretch: a younger brother’s wife, a sister, a daughter-in-law and one’s own daughter, these four are alike.”

When Lakshman asks Ram, what is wisdom, the Maryada Purushottam says: “Gyana maana jahan ekau nahin, dekha brahma samana sab mahi: Spiritual wisdom is that which is free from pride and arrogance and sees the Supreme Spirit equally in all.”

In one of the most significant statements defining true Dharma, Ram tells Bharat: “Para hita saras dharam nahin bhai, para peeda sama nahin adhamai: There is no virtue as great as the welfare of another, and no sin worse than oppressing another.” The qualities that guide him to conquer evil, however strong the enemy is, are summed up by Ram in his reply to Vibhishana: “Sunahu sakha kaha kripanidhana, sauraja dhiraja tehi ratha chaka, satya sila dridhdvaja pataka, bala bikeka dama parahita ghore, kshama kripa samata raju jore: Listen friend, in the chariot that leads one to victory, valour and fortitude are the wheels, while truthfulness and good conduct are its enduring banner; strength, discretion, self-control and benevolence are its four horses, that are joined to the chariot with the cords of forgiveness, compassion and evenness of mind.”

In this discourse, Ram also enumerates other virtues which are the key to victory, and must temper arrogance: dispassion, he says, is the shield, contentment the sword, charity the axe, reason the lance, and wisdom the bow. Ram’s message is clear: Evil may appear to be stronger, much better armed, with all the weapons at its command. Yet goodness has its own intrinsic power, and will always prevail over evil. Tulsi’s point is that Ram has the virtues that make a person invincible. These virtues are not acquired by external projections of one’s strength, but are a factor of internal disposition and resolve. They give to an individual the strength of character to overcome any adversity, even in situations where there is apparent asymmetry between the relative might of opposing forces. In this sense, Tulsi sees Ram as an ideal for every human being, often caught in situations where personal virtues appear to be dwarfed by the power of an opponent. His message is that Ram has precisely those virtues that ensure the victory of good over evil.

As we look forward now to the inauguration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya on January 22, 2024, let us celebrate this auspicious occasion for the real values that Ram stood for, and not politicise it for transient or partisan purposes. 

Tags: lord ram, ayodhya temple, ramayan