Sunday, November 11, 2012

Reclaiming our History | Decoding the Ramayana: The *real* Shri Ram: Whether he was a "bad husband" and what is "Ram-Rajya"? (Part-I)

Author's Note: Please visit - The 'Real' Ramayana/ Ram-Rajya - to read the other parts of this series

In this series we will also discuss why Shri Ram is considered to be 'Bhagavan', a 'Maryada-purushottam' and an 'Avatar'; why he is variously referred to as: 'Raghupati', 'Raghav' and along with Sita, as 'Patita-pavana'; and what exactly do these mean. We will also try to understand *what* Sita, Kaikeyi and Manthara were really like, *who* was Shri Hanuman, and the *kind of society* that prevailed in the 2nd era - the Treta Yug

I urge you to read this post slowly (and if required, more than once) so as to fully understand all that I have tried to convey.


Yours truly is not an expert on any of our ancient texts, but from whatever I have read, this is what I have gathered:

Our understanding of our ancient texts, including the Ramayan and the Mahabharat (the itihasa or the history of the Treta and the Dwapar Yug respectively) is very wrong; thanks to the concerted efforts of vested interests, 'scholars', phoren authors, and so on. [Dwapar Yug = the third era, the one that preceded the current one.]

Remember that the Ramayan has over 3,000 re-telling and/or versions, not to mention the humongous amounts of myths that has seeped in given the passage of time or eras, and the flights of fantasy taken by many. Much of what is bandied about these days (or has been bandied about for a while now) are bits and pieces of several versions.

Ram was not the stunned-looking, expressionless creature that certain folks (including desi and phoren 'scholars' and learned 'pundits') have turned him into.

Sita was not the sad, weepy, tragic figure that certain entities have turned her into. She knew how to dismantle the 'Shiv-dhanu' - the name of the most fearsome (and destructive) weapon of that era (the 2nd era or the Treta Yug). Perhaps it was even more destructive than the fiercest weapon we know of today.

And Ram too knew how to dismantle the 'Shiv-dhanu'. So, I hope, you can now understand their caliber.

Sita was the adopted daughter of Raja Janak, but her real mother was Mandodari - Ravana's wife (and Ravana had several of them. Raavan's appetite for a certain kind of activity was legendary.) [Raja = king.]

In fact, Sita and Mandodari were so alike that even Hanuman was confused. Hanuman was not a 'monkey' as has been (and is being) strangely stressed upon, but the finest pilot of his era. That is why he is metaphorically referred to as: Pavan-putra or Vaayu-putra; the son (putra) of 'pavan' or 'vaayu' - the Sanskrit words for 'wind'. There are clear references to a variety of aircraft in the Ramayan. Hanuman belonged to the community of humans that were collectively known as 'van-nar', i.e. 'forest-dwelling human'. [Van = forest, nar = human.]

[Note: The same van-nar have been (mis)translated as 'monkey' by legions of enlightened aliens and their spiritual offspring and disciples. While our benevolent colonizers - in their infinite wisdom and zeal to 'civilize the world' - have dubbed the modern van-nar as 'savage tribal' and 'uncivilized backward castes' (also re-figured as: 'scheduled castes'), thanks to the higher and classy game of 'divide and rule'.]

The 2nd era, the Treta Yug, consists of a set of events, via which this era establishes certain guidelines and accepts a few things. Three of them are as follows:

1. Acceptance of humans not born the natural way - as humans. [Shri Ram and his siblings were not born the natural way.]

2.  Acceptance of forest-dwelling humans (or 'van-nar') - as full-fledged humans.

3.  Improvement in the position of women and other marginalized people - in society.

Ram, along with Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman played a major role for point # 2 and # 3 - to materialize. They worked together to achieve these goals - not for themselves, but for the betterment of society.

Therefore, when 'scholars' both desi and phoren say that Ram 'forbade' Sita from accompanying him to the forest, they cannot be more wrong (to put it mildestly, that is). This is because, Ram never tries to 'dominate' Sita the way (a large chunk of) modern husbands do. Sita does what she wants to or likes to... and Ram simply accepts her decisions. He does not feel threatened by her, nor suffer from what is known as 'inferiority complex'. This is one reason why he is hailed as: 'Maryada-purushottam'. [Maryada = loosely defined: virtuous, noble, principled, possessing good character or traits. Purushottam = the best or the finest among men.]

Here, I would also like to say that two other great women, Kaikeyi and Manthara, have been turned into villainous figures. This is a shame. However, instead of undoing this blatant wrong, we are bent on perpetuating it.

The twisting of the Ramayana, including the characters of Ram, Sita, Hanuman, Kaikeyi, Manthara, etc., probably happened after the demise of the Gupta era, when vested interests started rearing their ugly heads. These vested interests (both foreign and homegrown) then used our ancient texts (including the Ramayan and the Mahabharata) to bring down the status/position of women and to stratify society along gender lines, etc. This trend has unfortunately continued... and still going strong. [I intend to do a Ramayan series, and hence am not delving too deeply into this here, but please do put on your thinking cap - and try to figure out why I have said that two great women, Kaikeyi and Manthara, have been turned into villainous figures.]

Sita refused to receive instructions/education from Rishi Gautam, although the latter was the Raj Purohith (chief or royal priest) of her foster-father, Raja Janak. This is because: Gautam had killed his wife, Ahaliya. We are told that Gautam 'cursed' her and as a result Ahaliya turned into stone. This actually means: he either killed her by hitting her with a stone or buried her alive. The reason: he suspected her 'fidelity'. [Raj purohith is the one that performs and presides over all royal functions and rituals, including the coronation; imparts lessons and training to the royal offspring, takes care of all astrology and vaastu-related matters, writes texts, decides on customs and activities, and advises the king or the ruler of the day. The pradhan-mantri or the prime minister's advises is limited to certain administrative functions like law and order, tax collection, and so on. The pradhan-mantri could not decide on rituals, astrology, vaastu, customs, and the like.]

So, undoubtedly, Rishi Gautam was an immensely influential figure that also wielded wide powers - as the Raj Purohith. Sita's action would not have gone down well with him. [Perhaps: even Raja Janak may not have been keen to take on Rishi Gautam, knowing full well his influence and clout. But Sita very likely stood firm. This, I say, from my understanding of her nature and character.]

Let us now try to understand the type of society that prevailed during the Treta Yug.

Rishi Kahoda was a wife-beater. His son, Astavakra, was born deformed as a result of it. Astavakra means: one who is deformed in eight places. [Though in our ancient texts the word 'curse' has been used to explain or indicate these things, but it clearly points towards: physical abuse.]

Rishi Kahoda beat his pregnant wife, because she corrected him at least eight times for wrong pronunciation of some textual verse. [Their son, Astavakra, was born deformed - as a result of this beating.]

Rishi Jamadagni (we are told) commanded his son Jamadagneya (better known as Parashurama or Parasurama: 'Rama with the axe') - to kill his own mother, and he quietly did as told. Reason: Rishi Jamadagni too suspected his wife's 'fidelity'...!

Her 'crime': accustomed to and leading a life of drudgery and austerity, she once chanced upon the amorous courting rituals and mating dance between the handsome King Chitraratha - the lord (king) of the Gandharvas, and his fair maidens. Innocent as she was of such activities and being totally unaware of this aspect of love - even after the birth of five sons, she is overcome by passion and feels the stirrings of emotions hitherto unknown to her; even fantasizing about participating in those acts. But the sound of her pot of water striking the ground as it fell from her hand cut into her reverie and she rushed back to her husband's ashram embarrassed, disheveled, breathless and unable to recount to him what she has seen, blurting out a feeble explanation for her state and appearance instead. She (Renuka), a Kshatriya princess of the Suryavanshi (solar or Sun-worshiping) clan, one who had married Jamadagni - a Brahmin sage, out of her own free will and bore him five sons - is punished by that very husband for her 'transgressions'. [Read: Link.]

[However: given that Parasuram is none other than Shri Vishnu (in one of His many human 'avatars', it is difficult to digest this story. Meaning: that He committed matricide, simply because his father commanded him to do so. 'Coz He upholds Dharma. Maybe the narrative has been tweaked (by later entities) so as to being about the "Pitr devo bhava" or "father is equivalent to God" stuff. And to bring down the position of women.]

Nevertheless: All this should provide us with a reasonable glimpse into the kind of society that prevailed, the position of women, and the attitude and behaviour of learned persons, including great and venerated sages (Rishis, Munis, Maharshis, etc) - towards women (including their own spouses) - in the 2nd era, the Treta Yug.

The great sages wielded immense influence and power; they were the ones that were responsible for performing all puja and rituals (including the ones that were to be mandatorily performed by the kings); they also gave instructions/imparted knowledge to the students, including the ones of royal descent. These sages not only decided as to who they wanted as their shishya (students) and who they did not, but they could also ask any student, irrespective of the latter's background, to leave mid-way. Whatever they asked for, as 'gurudakshina', had to be given. These sages wrote many of our texts and laid down the guidelines (for a variety of customs and rituals) - for society to follow. They were the custodians of the texts, rituals, customs, knowledge, education, et al and hence were venerated and obeyed by the people. Unquestioningly. Such was their hold.

Therefore, Sita's action would have undoubtedly riled or angered many - among the priestly class (and their cronies).

This priestly class/entity had abrogated the highest position in society for themselves: by proclaiming themselves to be Brahmin, and twice-born (dvija).

Brahmin is a corrupt form/version of 'Brhmaan'. Brhmaan refers to 'the Ultimate Knowledge'; a knowledge that leads one to 'the Ultimate Truth' or to 'the Ultimate Reality' - that of the realization of the Parameshwar, the Supreme Being or the Paramaatma, the Supreme Soul. Or in other words, 'Brhmaan' helps one to 'see' or understand the unseen forces of the universe, also referred to as the Parameshwar, the Supreme Being or the Paramaatma, the Supreme Soul.

IT (the Parameshwar or the Paramaatma) cannot be seen with mortal eyes, has no shape, no form and no gender. Only when one lets go of one's ego (ahamkara) and other base aspects of one's nature, can one 'see' the formless forces of the universe in one's mind's eye (manas-chokhshyu, divya-drishti; or tritiya-nayan, the third eye.)

That is: when one truly understands that everything that is a part of Creation, whether animate or inanimate, movable or immovable, IS the Parameshwar or the Paramaatma; since the unseen forces of the universe manifested itself through whatever is part of Creation (Srsstti or Shristi). This is 'the ultimate knowledge'.

In other words: since the human mind could not understand or fathom vacuum, or for that matter, anything that is formless, it needed something, anything, as a reference point. Through the manifested (i.e. through the ākārā, saguna or through the with form and with shape entity) can one 'see' and fathom the un-manifested (the nirākārā, nirguna) - the formless Paramaatma or the Parameshwar). [Do read: Notes on "Idol Worship": here.]

Ordinary people did not quite understand such high philosophy; and the documentation and interpretation of the texts were left to a certain group (the ones that proclaimed themselves to be 'Brahmin', or a part of the Brhmaan or Paramaatma!)

They chose whom to teach, what to teach, and also told the rest of the population what to follow... and what to avoid.

Therefore, in a way, these Brahmins became manifestations of the (formless) Brhmaan or the Paramaatma - if you know what I mean. They could not be questioned, they had to be obeyed and revered at all costs (not only by the ordinary populace, but also by the kings and ministers.)

I hope you can now fathom or understand their status, influence and stature in society - in those days (the Treta Yug). And it is in this scenario or context that we have to see Ram, Sita, Lakshman, Hanuman, Kaikeyi and Manthara.

Sita (a Kshatriya princess) had clearly stirred a hornet's nest, by challenging these powerful and influential figures (belonging to the much-venerated priestly and knowledge-imparting community) - as a princess. These entities (with the help of other powerful entities) later on cast aspersions on her character, spread canards about her, questioned her fidelity and the paternity of her children. It is they that asked her to undergo the 'Agni Pariksha' (to 'prove' her fidelity) - a custom meticulously followed in the Treta Yug. A custom that none could question. A custom decreed by the priestly class - the ones that had declared themselves to be Brahmin, the holders of the highest position in society and twice-born (dvija) - and a part of the Brhmaan or the Paramaatma. [This is not to say that everyone belonging to the priestly class was negative, but a large chunk of them were, and it is these types that held sway and exerted influence.]

No ruler could or was willing to challenge these entrenched interests. Ram (a Kshatriya prince) was the one that took a stand against these derogatory customs (and a lot more ills) that plagued society in that era. As a ruler (a Chakravarti Raja) - he not only outlawed them, but uprooted most of them too; but by doing so, he invariably took on these powerful and influential entities and vested interests. Both Sita and Ram suffered - as a result of their respective actions.

However, at the end of it all, certain fresh rules and guidelines were established (three of them mentioned/listed down above), and this is why 'Ram-Rajya' is so-much talked about - even today, in this fourth and current era - the Kali Yug

[Ram-Rajya: an enlightened administration based on justice, merit and equality, where the ruler looks after the people or the praja with filial affection.]

Accomplishing these tasks or goals (in the face of gigantic odds) and establishing what is known as Ram-Rajya wouldn't quite have been a cake-walk, don't you think? It is also another reason why Shri Ram is hailed as 'Maryada-purushottam' - the noblest, the best and the finest among men.  

Note: The picture accompanying this post is a Raja Ravi Varma painting. It depicts Shri Ram breaking the 'Shiv-dhanu' at Sita's Swayamvara. [Swayam in Sanskrit means self and vara means choice or desire. In ancient India, there was a practice of choosing a husband, from among a list of suitors, by a girl of marriageable age.]

Sita had already heard about Ram, and had seen him at the Swayamvara (before garlanding him, that is), and she had liked what she saw. [Sita is also known as Siya and Janaki; Janaki means 'daughter of Janak'; Raja Janak was her foster-father.]

Given that our ancients used a lot of metaphors in their writings, the 'Shiv-dhanu' has been depicted as a bow (dhanu = bow). However, it was not a 'bow' per se, but the most destructive of all weapons (of that era). Obviously, a consensus would have been reached amongst the rulers and other influential entities of that era, to dismantle that fearsome weapon. Shri Ram does it.

Jai Siya-Ram!

(Do stay tuned…)

Picture: Shri Ram breaks the 'Shiv-dhanu' at Sita's Swayamvara; a Raja Ravi Varma painting. Courtesy: link.


  1. I may not agree with your concept as both of us are from different schools:).....But, as an Anthropologist, i love reading your posts on history and myth as it gives me an opportunity to reframe my questions more effectively....

    Can we know the measure of ShivaDhanu's destruction? you have said that it is more powerful than the present weapons?

  2. @Mahesh Kalaal: Mahesh, what we today know as "atom" is much larger than what our ancients called "anu". Therefore, the kind of destruction that the "Shiv-dhanu" could wreck would have been huge, probably greater than the one that obliterated the Vrishnis and the Andhakas, for example.

    PS: Thank you. :)

    Wish you a Shubh Deepavali!

  3. Do accept my apologies for the delay in reading this wonderful, enlightening post.
    it is true indeed that our scriptures have been manipulated time and again to suit the political needs of the ruling class. (the zietgiest movies have proved that to quite some extent.. And it is not limited to our scriptures only)

    But Sita according to the scriptures was born of earth and was claimed by earth. I didnt get the connection between her and mandodari.. Apart from the looks resemblance..but neither am i well informed on the topic.. Do enlighten me on that..

    Also that ravana was Gud husband too.. Tho angad and some of his allies had at one point slipped into his harem and had flirted with women in order to coax him to leave his prayer so that ravana cud not obtain some powerful weapon.. Ravana not once doubted his wife..

    And there is an event in one of the versions of ramanaya (tamil probably) where ahilya when learns abt sita's agni pareekhsha decides to turn back to stone . Who wud want to live in a society as such?? Perhaps treta yug was not so utopian as well...

  4. @Abiral: You have only read Part-I, and I have written 8 parts already. You will have to read the rest – in ascending order – to get the picture. :)

    I have tried to decode what Ahalya ‘turning into stone’ meant. She was beaten with a stone or buried alive – by her husband. He suspected her fidelity.

    In the Treta Yug, even learned persons very shabbily treated women, and these people wielded a lot of influence and power in society. Even greater than what a king wielded: as you can see in Part-I of this series.

    Mandodari was Sita’s mother. They were so alike that even Hanuman was confused. She may have given up or abandoned Sita as a baby – for whatever reason. Or Sita may have been lost or kidnapped – as a baby.

    Ram does not question Sita’s fidelity. That is a latter addition. Even the much-bandied-about ‘Lakshman Rekha’ is a latter addition.

    Ravan was not ‘evil’ – we do not have a concept of evil. He had his positives too. However: his downfall was caused by excessive ego. Do read the other parts to get the drift. Our understanding of ‘Sita’s apaharan’ is totally wrong.

    I am attempting to decode and cleanse the narrative – in order to arrive at a clearer picture.

    But: in order to understand what I have tried to convey… you may have to read the other parts – and if necessary re-read Part-I as well. :)