Author's Note: Please visit - The 'Real' Ramayana/ Ram-Rajya - to read the other parts of this series, so as to be able to fully understand or grasp the contents of this one.
In the 1st part of this post, we talked about the kind of society that prevailed in the 2nd era (the Treta Yug); we discussed why Ram is also known as 'Maryada-purushottam'; what Sita was like; what is meant by Ram-Rajya, who was Shri Hanuman, who were the 'van-nar', and what has happened to the modern-day 'van-nar'.
We also listed down three things that were accepted by the people of the Treta Yug. [There were a few other things that were accepted as well, but we will discuss them in my Ramayan series.]
Among the 3 things listed in the 1st part of this series, point # 2 stated: Acceptance of forest-dwelling humans (or the 'van-nar') - as full-fledged humans.
Let us now discuss this point in greater detail, but first a bit more about Shri Hanuman. [Please do also read the 1st part of this series for the sake of continuity. Link provided at the top of this post.]
In Sanskrit, "Hanu" means "jaw". "Man" comes from "mant"; it means: prominent.
So, Hanuman = someone that possesses a prominent, distinctive or (maybe) a large jaw. And perhaps this feature earned him one of his many names, that of: Hanuman. He is also known as Maruti, meaning: "son of Marut". [Marut = another name for 'wind' in Sanskrit; the other two being: vaayu and pavan. It is a metaphor and alludes to Hanuman's skills as a pilot. He was the finest pilot of his era.]
Shri Hanuman and Shri Sugriva have been incorrectly dubbed as 'monkey' or 'ape', while the 'Vanar Sena' has been conveniently dubbed variously as 'monkey-army' or the 'army of apes'. [This has happened due to the translation of our ancient texts and pracheen itihasa or our 'ancient history' - by 'enlightened' aliens and their spiritual offspring and disciples.]
Vanar (also: Vaanar) is an amalgamation of two words: 'van-nar' or 'vaan-nar'. [Van or Vaan = forest. Nar = human.]
So, "vanar", "vaanar" or "van-nar" is actually "forest-dwelling human".
Therefore: the "Vanar Sena", "Vaanar Sena" or the "Van-nar Sena" = the army consisting of forest-dwelling humans. [Sena = army.]
The people of the Treta Yug - the ones that lived in the villages or in the cities (i.e. the ones that lived outside the forest) - did not accept the ones (humans) that lived in the forest - as "humans".
The humans of the Treta Yug (those living outside the forest) considered their forest-dwelling counterparts (the "van-nar" or "forest-dwelling humans") as part of the "animal-world", or in other words: as "lesser humans".
The primary reason for this perception could be: their appearance, i.e. the way they looked. Also: their 'way of life' differed quite a bit from the 'way of life' followed by the humans living outside the forest, and this too may have played a role in strengthening such a perception.
Shri Ram, along with his consort, Mata Sita, and younger brother, Shri Lakshman, endeavoured to change this very perception.
That is why he did not seek the help of his own powerful army (that of Ayodhya) and instead went to war with an army of "Van-nar Sena" - led by Shri Hanuman.
That is why Shri Ram did not even seek the help of his own highly-skilled engineers and technicians (from Ayodhya) - to build the bridge to Lanka (also known as: the Ram Setu).
The ones that actually built this bridge (setu-bandhan) across the ocean to Lanka - were the van-nar or the "forest-dwelling humans" - of the Treta Yug.
All of the above had to be done - in order to show and prove (to the rest of the humanity) that the "van-nar" or the "forest-dwelling humans" were in no way inferior to the ones that lived outside the forest.
That is: So as to show and prove (to the rest of the humanity) that the "van-nar" or the "forest-dwelling humans" were not part of the "animal-world" or "lesser humans".
That: they were full-fledged humans, just like the rest of the humanity that were to be found in the 2nd era, the Treta Yug.
Shri Ram, Mata Sita and Shri Lakshman along with Shri Hanuman, Shri Sugriva and his army (the "Vanar Sena") - were successful in their venture. Result: The "van-nar" or the "forest-dwelling humans" were accepted by the rest of the population as full-fledged humans.
Now, can you figure out the role played by Mata Kaikeyi and Mata Manthara?
Two great women have been blithely turned into villainous figures, scorn after scorn have been heaped on them; they have been ridiculed and demeaned for centuries now. And instead of righting this horrendous wrong, we - the modern humans, and the descendents of our ancestors who lived in the Treta Yug - are bent on perpetuating it, by making them (besides several others of course) the protagonist/lead characters of lewd jokes, strange epithets, and what have you. Shame on us!
Sita was not the sad, weepy, tragic figure that certain entities have turned her into. She was not a "poor" woman either. She was as courageous as courageous can ever be, as fiery as fiery can ever be and as noble-minded as noble-minded can ever be. She was a brave-heart. Sita was a true Kshatriya, and she performed, or rather upheld - the "Kshatriya-dharma" - the 'way of life' of a Kshatriya (or the 'way of life' of a brave-heart). A 'way of life' that was essentially all about: helping and defending the weak and the oppressed, no matter what. She refused to be cowed down by fear; fear of retributions and backlash from vested interests and powerful figures. [Please do read the 1st part of this series to understand this better.]
... And so was Ram. He too was a true Kshatriya, and he too upheld the "Kshatriya-dharma" despite great odds and challenges.
[Note: Dharma is not "religion", such a word and its connotations were unknown to our ancients. Dharma = 'way of life' or the guiding principles of one's life.
Kshatriya = a warrior or a brave-heart; one who defends people or principles, i.e. one who protects the weak and the oppressed from negative or harmful influences or entities - anywhere. It is not limited to the battlefield per se.]
Ram, Sita, Lakshman, Hanuman, et al worked together to achieve certain goals; they were largely successful in their endeavours... and in the process, they also became the best of friends and allies.
However, as a consequence of their actions, Ram and Sita suffered a lot. This was due to the machinations of various entrenched interests, the ones they have had the gumption to challenge. Yet, they chose to soldier on, courageously. They could have led a comfortable and luxurious life, given their royal lineage. They could have chosen to accept the injustices of the time (the Treta Yug) and led a trouble-free life. ... But they did not take the easy way out, nor did they remain passive. Instead, Ram and Sita chose the difficult path of hardships and challenges, so as to improve society, and so as to improve the lives of the people.
Despite heavy odds, Shri Ram (along with Mata Sita, Lakshman, Shri Hanuman, Kaikeyi, Manthara, et al) succeeded in undoing a lot of the ills (of that era) and established what came to be hailed as the Ram-Rajya.
No wonder, a popular Bhajan has the following words:
'Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram,
Patita = the oppressed. Pavana = the deliverer.
Ram and Sita together worked towards the upliftment of the status of women, the "van-nars" or the "forest-dwelling humans", the elderly and the poor, and perhaps also towards the upliftment (and assimilation into society) of the "tritiya prakriti" or the "third gender" (the ones that the English-language today calls as: hermaphrodite.)
All these groups were oppressed (patita) due to the societal norms that prevailed in the 2nd era, the Treta Yug. Ram and Sita's efforts (along with those of Lakshman, Hanuman, Kaikeyi, Manthara, et al) - helped in easing their circumstances. Or in other words: Ram and Sita delivered them from their miseries.
Hence, Sita-Ram is hailed and revered as 'patita-pavana'. [This is yet another reason why Ram is also known as: 'Maryada-purushottam'. Do read: Part-1.]
... But what have we done to them?
It's shameful, to say the least, is it not? If this is how we treat our real heroes and heroines: refuse to acknowledge their glorious legacies and contributions, (rather: refuse to even acknowledge them) and instead, get dazzled by or glorify hollow and fake pretenders, who will want to devote themselves towards the welfare of the society? Who will want to work for the betterment of the people? Who will want to surmount great odds, sacrifice personal happiness and comforts, in order to work for the greater good?
... And then, what will happen to society?
Note: The modern 'van-nar' have been shunned and condescendingly dubbed as 'savage tribal' and 'backward castes' - by our benevolent and well-meaning colonizers, the ones that have spread the blinding light of civilization all over the globe. All thanks to the higher and classy game of 'divide and rule'.
Btw, 'Caste' is an alien word. It is derived from the Portuguese word: 'Casta', which means: purity of descent.
As for women, we are aware of their current situation, what? A cursory glance over the newspapers is enough, right? As for the tritiya-prakriti, the elderly and the poor, well, less said the better.
... But what do we do now?
Given what we have done to our icons: ancient, medieval... and even the ones from our recent history, who will want to come forward - in order to undo these modern-day ills?
(Do stay tuned…)
Picture: Shri Ram, Mata Sita and Lakshman crosses the Sarayu river; a Raja Ravi Varma painting. Courtesy: link. Jai Siya-Ram! Jai Hanuman!