Wednesday, November 14, 2012

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

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 this post, we will discuss *why* the battle between Ravana and Ram (plus his allies: Hanuman, Sugreeva, Lakshman and the Van-nar Sena) happened, the *real* reasons behind Sita's "kidnapping" and *what* it achieved; a glimpse of Ravan, the "Dasavatara" and *what* it actually depicts or explains, *what* the Narasimha-avatar and the Vaman-avatar *really* signify, a snapshot of some *ancient* communities (like: Kirat, Riksha, Kinnara, Kimpurusha, etc) and who *really* was Jambavan.


We have traditionally associated qualities like sharpness, perception, foresight, statesmanship, and the like with Shri Krishna, and with Chanakya. And (unfortunately), we have turned Shri Ram into a one-dimensional, expressionless figure, thanks to popular shows, etc.

But from what I understand, Shri Ram is no less far-sighted or statesman-like than Shri Krishna or Chanakya. In fact, he is a statesman-par-excellence. Here's why:

One of the tasks he set out to achieve (at the age of 25) was to elevate the status of the "Van-nar" (forest-dwelling human) in society; that is: to ensure their acceptance as full-fledged humans by the rest of the humanity (that lived outside the forest - in the 2nd era or the Treta Yug.) Ram, along with his consort: Sita, younger brother: Lakshman, Hanumanji, Kaikeyi, Manthara, Sugriva, his "Van-nar Sena" (army consisting of forest-dwelling humans), et al - succeeded in this venture. [For details, do read: Part-II: HERE.]

But that was not all. There were still other issues to be settled, the most important ones being: to secure the lives of his praja (subjects) and the praja of his allies, to secure the borders of his kingdom (and those of his allies), and to ensure peace.

One part of this was achieved - with Bali gone, and his younger brother Sugriva installed on the throne (with Bali's son, Angad, declared as the crown-prince or Yuvaraj). Therefore, after Sugriva, Angad would ascend the throne.

And given that all of them had become the best of friends and allies, so, as far as Ayodhya and Kishkindhya was concerned, there was peace and brotherhood.

However, to my mind, Ram and/or Ayodhya's intelligence (and perhaps even Kishkindhya's as well) may have perceived a threat - likely to emanate from elsewhere, more specifically from Lanka (or maybe even from the then king of Lanka - Ravan). Here's why:

Not unlike the deceased Vannar-raj (king of the "van-nar") Bali, Ravan too was a knowledgeable, well-read and a powerful king. Both Bali and Ravan were good rulers and looked after their respective praja (subjects) too.

However, their respective drawbacks were the same: excessive ego and rage.

Ravan's ten heads is a metaphor: it points towards his great intelligence and knowledge, yes, but it also alludes to his gigantic ego.

Much of the confusion that exists about Ram and Ravan stems from the fact that: many people sympathize with Ravan, since he is also believed to belong to a certain group. While Ram is believed to belong to a different group - which has further been bolstered by his name figuring in the "Dasavatara".

However, the "Dasavatar" - the (popularly believed) 10 incarnations or manifestations of that formless and without gender cosmic force that our ancients called Shri Vishnu - could not have been predicted. 'Coz the first 4 avatars clearly preceded the appearance of humans on earth.

The first 4 avatars are as follows: 1. Matsya avatar (fish) 2. Kurma avatar (tortoise) 3. Varaha avatar (wild boar) and 4. Narasimha or Nrisingh avatar (lion-man).

The 5th avatar is: Vamana avatar, i.e. dwarf or small-sized humans.

"Vaman" is not "Brahmin". Vaman = small-sized humans.

The first humans on earth would have been small in size: due to the still-hostile environment/terrains, food may not have been abundant, and so on and so forth. E.g. certain groups of people like: the (African) Bushmen are small in size. But they are very much human.

Therefore, the Vaman avatar clearly refers to groups of small-sized humans, like the Bushmen or maybe even the Yakshas (yakṣa) and yakṣī or Yakshini (yakṣiṇī).

The 4th avatar or the Narasimha avatar (lion-man) could very well be the Kinnara and the Kimpurusha, or maybe even the early Kirāta (Kirata-or Kirati).

Kirat-or Kirati: means "people with lion-like nature". It is derived from two words: Kira = Lion and Ti = people, and it also means: "people from the mountain". [There is a very good chance that Maa Parvati, and her comrades, like Mata Vaishno Devi, also known a Maa Sherawali, belonged to this group. Some groups of ancient Tibetans, Gorkhas, Nepali, Ladhaki and the early inhabitors of ancient Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Chattisgarh, Odisha, Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Tripura, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, etc., too may have been Kirat-or Kirati.]

The Kimpurushas have been described as "lion-headed beings". The "lion head" may be an exaggeration - for their heavily-bearded head. And this along with their looks or facial features may have reminded one of a lion. E.g, Yeti or the elusive snow-man. [Certain sturdy and courageous groups of humans - that lived in and around the highly rugged and difficult terrain of the Himalayan region too were perhaps known as the Kimpurusha. And their facial features may have instantly invoked the image of a lion - in one's mind. Bhagavan Shiv, very likely hailed from this group. I think some groups of the ancient Tibetans, the Gorkhas, the Nepali, Ladhaki, etc were known as the Kimpurusha. And we may also consider the ones that celebrate or perform the Bhuta Kola and the Aati Kalenja - as belonging to this ancient group of humans - collectively known as: Kimpurusha.]

As for the Kinnaras, we may want to take a closer look at the ones that celebrate or perform the Royal/Regal Tiger dance (Kannada: the Hulivesha, Hulivēṣa | Tulu: the Pilivesha, Pilivēṣa) as well as the Puli Kali, a similar dance-form in neighbouring Kerala. ["Puli" = Leopard/Tiger and "Kali" = Play - in the Malayalam language. Puli Kali is also known as Kaduvakali. Some groups of humans in ancient Himachal Pradesh and surrounding areas too may have been Kinnaras. And we absolutely cannot rule out the possibility of Mata Vaishno Devi, also known a Maa Sherawali, having belonged to this group.] 

Therefore: to my mind at least, the "Dasavatara" clearly shows the "evolution of the earth" and points towards the first humans as well.

Our ancients had a unique way of describing things or events: in camouflaged language or coded text. Everything was given a name, a gender and a shape; popular figures/characters were used to depict various events whether on earth or celestial. This was done for the sake of comprehension or ease of understanding. [Some stories from our ancient texts, featuring popular characters, were essentially penned to inculcate good values or ethics in children and youngsters, while some others were written to amuse them as well as each other. These should not be mixed with the main narrative, else they will confuse big time.]

... And one of the popular figures used in the "Dasavatara" - to explain the evolution of the earth - has been Shri Ram (and this has, to a certain extent, created some confusions about him.)

Ravan hailed from a community known as: Rakshasa.

The Rakshasas are thought to be Cannibals. But just like humans have diverse food habits, viz: vegetarian, non-vegetarian, fish-eaters, and the like, we can safely assume that all Rakshasas were not Cannibals. [Remember: Hidimbi, a Rakshashi and Bheem, a non-Rakshasa human had married, and their son was Ghatotkacha. Hidimbi's brother, Hidimba was a cannibalistic Rakshasa, Hidimbi was not. And Hidimbi is worshiped even today.]

Ravana clearly was not a cannibal, and so was his younger brother, Vibhishana. However, we cannot be so sure about his sister: Surpanakha. Surpanakha very likely was cannibalistic in nature.

However, besides Surpanakha, there would have been several other cannibals in Ravan's kingdom (Lanka) and amongst his army as well.

And this, along with Ravana's nature and ambition, may have been a cause for worry to Hanuman and Sugriva (of Kishkindhya) and Ram, Sita and Lakshman (of Ayodhya).

However: it could also be that Ravana (being a great ruler himself) may have been concerned about the cannibalistic Rakshasas (in his kingdom). But he was in a dilemma. If he stopped them, they would have looked for prey elsewhere: Kishkindhya was nearest, followed by Ayodhya.

And Ravana could not have killed his cannibalistic subjects himself, since that would have been tantamount to gynati-hatya, i.e. equivalent to killing one's own, and this may not have been considered a good thing to do (according to the societal norms prevalent during the 2nd era, the Treta Yug.) 

Even in the Mahabharata (the itihasa of the 3rd era - the Dvapar Yug) we find Arjun unnerved by the possibility of "gynati-hatya".

Now, whatever the real reason may have been, the battle ensued. The motives were:

1.   To elevate the status of the "Van-nar" (i.e. forest-dwelling humans) in society, that is: to ensure their acceptance as full-fledged humans by the rest of the humanity (the ones that lived outside the forest in that era - the 2nd era, the Treta Yug.)

2.  To eliminate the cannibalistic Rakshasas present in Lanka - so as to ensure that the non-cannibalistic variety (humans, van-nar and non-cannibalistic Rakshasas) could flourish - both in Lanka and elsewhere. This would automatically ensure peace, and eliminate the constant fear amongst the non-cannibalistic humans - both in Lanka and elsewhere.

3.  To elevate the stature of Ram and Sita in the eyes of their praja, etc (subjects, officials), so as to give them some Moral Gravitas and authority: in order to enable them to put an end to certain derogatory customs and other ills that plagued society in that era. A routine ascension to the throne, as Raja Dasharatha's heir, would not have provided any Moral Gravitas or authority whatsoever. [Do read the 1st part of this post: HERE - to understand the kind of society it was, and the power wielded by certain groups/entities.]

Ram and the "Van-nar Sena", et al went to Lanka in order to eliminate the cannibalistic Rakshasas. However, Ravan himself came out to fight on the 3rd day itself. Ram asked him to go back, since he was not there to fight him per se. But after a while, Ravan's ego got the better of him. [He was probably unable to bear the taunts that his much-vaunted Lankan army (actually: the cannibalistic ones amongst them, and the other cannibals in his kingdom) was under pressure from a bunch of "van-nar"; given the status or position of the van-nar in the eyes of the others.] Result: a full-fledged battle ensued, wherein Ravan led the Lankan army, that had by now been ordered to come out in full force. Mandodari tried her best to restrain him, but he ignored her advice.

The rest as they say, is history.

At the end of the war, lying on his deathbed, Ravan realized his error of judgment and repented. Ram sat at his feet and sought forgiveness - for (though reluctantly) he was, in a way, responsible for the demise of a great king and a gynati as well (since both of them were sun-worshipers). He sought Ravan's advice and urged him to share his wisdom - about good governance. [Ram was not yet a king then, he was still a Yuvaraj.]

Ravan happily shared his wisdom and experience, and blessed Ram. After a while, he passed away. Kumbhakaran too was claimed in that battle.

Thereafter, their noble-hearted and mild-mannered brother, Vibhishana, was crowned the king of Lanka. Mandodari married him, and no doubt her wisdom and advice would have played a part in Lanka's continued prosperity.

Therefore, Sita's "kidnapping" by Ravana may have been part of a plan (to provide Ram, Sugriva, the "Van-nar Sena", et al an opportunity to attack Lanka, in order to eliminate the cannibalistic Rakshasas residing there).

Unfortunately, things escalated or got out of hand, due to Ravan's ego.

The 2nd option could be: that Ram, Sugreeva and Hanuman may have perceived a possible threat - from Lanka, or more specifically a Lanka under Ravan (given his ego) and the cannibalistic Rakshasas. However: it is also possible that they may not have viewed Ravan to be a threat per se, but his favourite son Meghnadh (Indrajeet). And collectively decided to pre-empt it, rather than wait for unwanted events to happen, since that would mean loss of precious lives and property besides the draining of resources.

Sita would have agreed (or volunteered) to be the catalyst, so as to provide the necessary opportunity to the others - for attacking Lanka. [We have already discussed about her character and nature in the previous parts of this series: Do read: Link.]

However, if this happened: then, I don't think that Ram would have ever agreed to the above-mentioned plan without being completely assured about Sita's safety. Therefore: it can be safely assumed that both Ram and Sita were aware that Mandodari was Sita's mother. And that she did wield enough clout with Ravan - to ensure Sita's safety. [However, this should not, in any way, take away or dilute her courage or contribution one bit. To me: Sita was very much the lynch-pin.]

After the end of the battle, Ayodhya, Kishkindhya and Lanka became strong allies. And they also collectively shared good terms with the Riksharaj (King of the Rikshas) Jambavan (also: Jambavantha). Shri Hanuman alongside the wise, intelligent and experienced Jambavan also became Sugriva's advisers.

[Note: Jambavan was not a bear, but the leader of another group of forest-dwelling humans who may have borne some facial resemblance with bears. [Therefore, his bear-like appearance is just an imagery.] He ruled over Jamvanta Nagari. Ancient India was referred to by various names: Bharatvarsha, Bharatkhanda, Jambudvipa, and so on. The word "Jambudvipa" literally refers to: "the land of Jambu trees", where Jambu is the name of the species of fruit (also called Jambul or Indian Blackberry) and dvipa means "island" or "continent".

Therefore, Kapishreshtha (Foremost among the "van-nar") - Jambavan may have derived his name from Jambudvipa. Perhaps: his clan was one of the oldest. The Rikshas were yet another kind of Van-nar or "forest-dwelling human".]

Therefore: since all of them became great friends and strong allies, unnecessary skirmishes and unwanted loss of precious lives and property was avoided. Also: given their combined strength, none would have wanted to make mischief with any of them. Ayodhya, Kishkindhya, Jamvanta Nagari and Lanka could now concentrate on the welfare of their respective people. Trade would have flourished amongst the allies, leading to even greater prosperity. Peace prevailed: since they did not have to waste time, energy and resources - in fighting each other or being wary of each other.

... And such an environment too would have bolstered: Ram-Rajya. [Read the 1st part of this series HERE, and the 2nd part: HERE, to know more, or to re-read them.]

Now, suppose all these events had not happened? How then may have the situation between Ayodhya, Kishkindhya, Jamvanta Nagari and Lanka played out?

Not unlike the one we have between: India, Kukri-land, Lama-land and Dragon-land?

... And then??

Being alert and perceptive is good, right? And preempting a threat or danger is immensely better than innocently relying on promises, peace-treaties and the like, and then suffering the consequences. What?

So, if we have to understand certain events or characters from our ancient history (pracheen itihasa), and figure out their actions, we must do so as dispassionately as possible and as knowledgeably as possible. We mustn't lose sight of the big picture. This is my humble inference. What do you think?

Jai Siya-Ram! Jai Hanuman!

Shubh Deepavali and a Shubho Kaali Pujo to you all. May the festival of lights, dispel the darkness within and around us.

Note: However, neither Bali nor Ravan are "evil", since such a concept is not part of our culture. They both were noble kings, that had certain weaknesses or drawbacks, and these led to their downfall. No person or entity, whether living or non-living, animate or inanimate, seen or unseen, is free from negative aspects/qualities, weaknesses or drawbacks. Both positive forces or entities and negative forces or entities are required for creation, and they are present everywhere: in creation, in the universe and in this world; they are present within us (as traits or qualities), they are present within society and within civilization as well - so as to sustain it, or rather, so as to maintain the balance (equilibrium) in society and in Creation. A wee bit of negativity (aasuric-ness) is required for the positivity (daaivic-ness) to shine. E.g: a lamp, the blue pre-dawn hours. Also: without some amount of negativity (aasuric-ness) civilization will stagnate. And we too won't be able to accumulate good karma.

However: just as Shri Krishna has nothing to do with the "Raas-leela" and the "Gopis" per se, the burning of Ravan and his brothers' (i.e. Kumbhakaran and Vibhishana's) effigies (in an event popularly known as: the "Ram Leela") - are clearly a later-day phenomenon.


P.S.: In this post, we talked about the "Dasavatara" a bit, right? Here is my humble attempt to understand as to: why the formless forces (of the universe) that cannot be seen and has no gender been given a form/shape, a name and assigned a gender - by our ancients?

The human mind cannot understand, visualize or fathom vacuum, or for that matter, anything that possess no form or shape (nirākārā). The human mind, therefore, requires something tangible - as a reference point.

And it is precisely for this very reason that the various forces (of the universe) that cannot be seen (with mortal eyes), has no gender and possess no form or shape has been given a form/shape, a name and assigned a gender (based on their nature) - by our ancients. [These forces collectively sustain creation, and thereby life, and have therefore, been revered by our ancients. These forces cannot be seen (with mortal eyes), has no form or gender, just like the force known as: gravity.]

Vishnu is the name of one such force of the universe. [Vishnu = Vish + Nu, and Vish = poison. Therefore, the Vishnu-force of the universe has been depicted with a gigantic reptile with 5-heads. It conveys the extent of poison that this Vishnu-force contains and emits.]

Shiv spelt backward is Vihs, i.e. Vish in another form, and it too means: poison; therefore, these two forces - Shiv and Vishnu - are one and the same (Hari-Hara). 

Since the Shiv-force (of the universe) has been depicted with a one-headed reptile, therefore, we may conclude that this force too emits some amount of poison, while absorbing much of the poison emitted by the Vishnu-force. And that is why: the Shiv-force of the universe is also known as "Neelkanth" or "the blue-throated one".

The energy or force that our ancients called "Brhmaa" signifies Creation. And this force emerges out of the "lotus-naval" of the force or energy known as Vishnu. Here: "lotus" is a metaphor. A lotus grows in muddy water, yet remains untouched by it. Brhmaa or Creation emerges out of immense poison (Vishnu), yet remains untouched by it.

For greater clarity, please do read: Who or rather what are Maa Adi Shakti and Maa Kaalraatri? - HERE.

There, I have also made an humble attempt to explain what is Kaali, what is Shakti and why these two formless forces of the Universe (Brhmaand) that have no gender are considered as "feminine" and revered and worshiped as the "divine Mother".

I have also attempted to explain the Gayatri Mantra; besides: what "dev", "devi" and "divine" means.

(Do stay tuned…)

Picture: The Setu Bandhan (bridging the ocean) being carried out by various groups of "Van-nar" (forest-dwelling humans). Picture courtesy: Razmnama: illustration to Persian translation of Mahabharata by Akbar.


  1. Kumbhakarna and Surpanakha were both very likely cannibalistic in nature.However, besides these two, there would have been several other cannibals in Ravan's kingdom (Lanka) and amongst his army as well.........How come?....You have concluded just like that without any rational reason....

    2. To elevate the status of the "Van-nar.....

    What about the vannars of western ghats then? the way even to elevate the status and to perform all those utopian tasks, whats the need for the drama of vanvas?. ... they could have directly done that without the hype.

    4.A routine ascension to the throne, as Raja Dasharatha's heir, would not have provided any Moral Gravitas or authority whatsoever.......

    So it means that every king should sent be sent to forests before becoming one, so as to reform other sects of the nation....

  2. Do we have any authentic rational carbon dated scientific proof to say that Ravan's Lanka had cannibalism ?

  3. If everything is a metaphor in Ramayana, then Hanuman being a fine pilot should also be a metaphor ..... May be he was good pilot in jumping from one tree to another tree...

  4. Therefore, Sita's "kidnapping" by Ravana may have been part of a plan (to provide Ram, Sugriva, the "Van-nar Sena", et al an opportunity to attack Lanka, in order to eliminate the cannibalistic Rakshasas residing there).....

    So that means that Ravan knows that he was part of the plan and his kidnapping of sita was just a drama.....And if it was a plan, why did Rama weep over Sita's kidnapping.....why did they search various places in forests when they very much knew that sita was with Ravan as the total episode was planned....

  5. The energy or force that our ancients called "Brhmaa" signifies Creation. And this force emerges out of the "lotus-naval" of the force or energy known as Vishnu. Here: "lotus" is a metaphor. A lotus grows in muddy water, yet remains untouched by it. Brhmaa or Creation emerges out of immense poison (Vishnu), yet remains untouched by it.....

    Loved it :)

  6. @Mahesh Kalaal: A lot of our heritage and history has been ruined and destroyed: thanks to the concerted efforts by various forces.

    In this series, we are discussing the 2nd era or the Treta Yug. Each era is distinct, and we need to understand that. We cannot study the previous eras through the prism of the current one.

    We are talking of an era where the ‘van-nar’ was not even accepted as full-fledged ‘humans’. The modern ‘van-nar’ does not have to face such a thing. Yes, there are challenges, but remember, this is the 4th era, not the 2nd.

    About Ram’s weeping, etc, as I have mentioned earlier, these are ‘amendments’ and liberties - taken by others.

    E.g. Krishna had nothing to do with Vrindavan or ‘Raas-Leela’ but these have been added to his profile.

    PS: All I can say is: you may have largely mis-read what I have written.