Sunday, October 3, 2010

Ram Avatar!

The festival season has begun. It starts every year, with the festival of Rakhi which falls on the full moon day of the Sraavan (Monsoon) month (10th month of the Hindu calendar). This is the festival where the Sister ties a knot across the brother’s hand praying for his well-being and asking him for his protection.  Lots of stories of its significance and origins.

In our family, my brother was born on a Rakhi day. So, every year Rakhi is celebrated along with his birthday. And between my four girls and their 4 cousins that there were, the ceremony continued for a long time until we completed tying rakhi’s to all the boys.




After Rakhi, comes Ganesh Chaturthi,(festival of the Elephant God) which falls between august 20 and September 15, the fourth day of the waxing moon. This festival is celebrated with huge idols of Ganesh being installed on the streets in India. In Hyderabad this is a very big event. Schools are closed on Chaturthi and during the Visarjan( is when the idols of Ganesh are immersed in water, sending Ganesha back to his home on Mt Kailash, in the Himalayas). It is soon followed by Navratri Celebrations.


One of the greatest Hindu festivals, Navratri, Navratras, Navrathri or Durga Puja are the different names, different idols, and different manner of celebration, but the underlying theme remains the same. It is the celebration of Good over Evil; of the greatness and valor of Devi Durga; the Giver of Peace, Prosperity and Well being of the mortals.

The 9 nights festival of Navratri begins on the first day of Ashwina of the bright fortnight. Seeds are sown, sprouting is watched, the planets are consecrated, and on the 8th and 9th days, Goddess Durga, Vijayashtami and Mahanavami are worshipped.

There are a lot of activities that we see during this festival season. It could be Ras Garba or Kolu, ayudh puja. We are lucky to be part of these activities. DSC_0248 DSC_0249 

The day after Navratri i.e. the 10th day after Ashwina, is Dusshera which celebrates the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana. Ravana is burnt in effigy, often giant dummies of Ravana stuffed with fireworks are shot with arrows until they blow up before a large, applauding audience.

So, this question suddenly struck in my mind, why was Rama born?. Rama is considered an avatar of Vishnu, the God who is the maintainer of the universe. Vishnu is supposed to have been born on the earth whenever there was trouble on earth. To kill evil and make sure good survives. But, as far as I knew, the only event that Rama took part in this avatar, was,  the war against Ravana.  There was no mention of any atrocities of Ravana, until Sita is kidnapped from the forest by Ravana, during their 14 year exile in the forest. Was Vishnu approached to take an avatar to get rid of Ravana? Nothing convincing there. All vague answers.

Ravana, according to legend, was the grandson of Pulastya, who is one of the mind-sons of Brahma. He was supposed to be renowned scholar who had a thorough knowledge of four Vedas and six upanishads. an exceptional player of Veena (Indian musical instrument). He was supposed to be the author Ravana Sanhita, a well regarded book on Hindu Astrology. He was known for his knowledge of Ayurveda and political science. He was known as Ravana Brahma, which indicated the nobility of his birth and the vastness of his knowledge. Even Rama did Ashwamedha Yagna after killing Ravana, as a penance for killing a Brahmin. Rama supposedly acknowledged the death of Ravana as a necessary evil.

Also, the description that one gets of Lanka, when Hanuman visits it during his search for Sita, is of a very affluent and green place. Golden domes, green forest, Asoka trees. He was a smart ruler.

His only known vice was his incredible appetite for Women, especially the pretty ones. Not that different from our ex-president, eh? Does this vice of his warrant an avatar of Vishnu?? Was he the only one that had committed this horrible sin? No other humans in this world guilty of this?!

There are a few legends where his womanizing started his downfall. The first incident was the attempt to molest the sage lady Vedavati who was doing penance to get Vishnu as her husband. To avoid Ravana’s forced capture, vedavati jumped into fire and later was reborn as Sita. The second was the actual molestation of Rambha (celestial dancer) who was betrothed to be married to Kubera’s (The brother of Indra, the lord of Devas) son. These two incidents, especially the second one angered Vishnu, who decided it was time to bring down the immortal and all too powerful king of Lanka. Kubera cursed Ravana to lose his head if he ever forced himself on any other woman. This is what supposedly saved Sita’s chastity during her time of captivity in Lanka.

To me, this avatar of Rama, doesn’t have much depth except to focus on the brotherly love, being an ideal son and showcase a gender biased society, if we consider the Agni Pariksha (nice article here) that Sita had to undergo. Ravana, wouldn’t have happened if Rama and Sita wouldn’t have gone to the forest.

He was supposed to be a great ruler, that his rule is referred to as Ram Rajya during which time, the people in his kingdom were supposed to be very happy and content.  All that seems fine, but some how, I cant digest that, to him, the irresponsible words of a Dhobi( a person who does laundry) seemed more important than, supporting his wife, than stand by her!  Just because, this Dhobi felt that Rama was wrong in bringing back Sita with him, Rama decided to leave Sita into the forest?! That too, stealthily, he got his brother to do it for him. A pregnant women (which they were not aware of at that time).  If that would have been his take all the way, then, why had he even decided to be a married man.  He was an avatar, couldn’t he have for seen this coming on Sita? Any way I try to reason with this, he ends up being the husband no women would desire.

Still, in spite of my doubts and feelings, I go ahead with telling the stories of Rama to my kids. We haven’t hit the point where we had to discuss his leaving his wife into the forest.  When they are mature enough to understand this epic story, at that time, I will let them judge this avatar for themselves. I am not going to influence their thoughts with mine. Maybe I am hypocrite, but, we cannot refute the fact that he was an ideal son to his parents,(problem was he was too idealist that he tortured himself). So, until that time, we will continue preparing for the Bal Ramayana that the kids of my friends and mine are taking part in and,  that my friend is wonderfully directing. The kids are so excited with their roles. It’s so great to see their fervor with which they rehearsed on the first day. 

Can’t wait to see the outcome of this little skit that will be presented on Diwali.  Until then, I would like to Wish a very happy Dusshera to my friends and family.

Please feel free to disagree with me here. Any other thoughts/comments, information are welcome on this topic. I would love to see more opinions flow on this topic.

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