Ravana, Rama and Sita

18 10 2009

Yesterday, I happened to read a funny imaginary interview of Ravana, of the great epic Ramayana’s fame, by Ashok Banker author of the best-selling Ramayana Series. You can read it here. Besides being funny, Ashok let the character speak for itself and clear some misconceptions. Ravana agrees that he did some bad stuff and accepts it as a matter of fact. He even feels proud to be a famous villain. He tells the interviewer that ‘arya’ (‘aryan’ is a mispronunciation) is not a racial description or something defined by the origin of birth or color of skin etc, but rather it signifies the noble traits. Anyone with a noble spirit and character is an ‘arya’. His referring to Rama as dharmanator, as in “terminator who slaughtered and committed atrocities in the name of dharma” is really humorous.

Ravana also claims that it was he who popularized Ramayana in the modern world. Have you got a blank look on your face? My reaction was exactly the same when I came to that part of the interview. 😕 You have to read it in order to know the reason behind his claims. Putting everything from the interview here might not be a good idea (and not to talk about the copyright issues). Here, I’m just trying to present the highlights and in a way urging anyone out there interested enough to look into the original article. It was an entertaining and insightful read for me.

I want to digress at this point and talk about my feelings and thoughts about the epic. Ramayana has been my most favorite story ever since my childhood. I had a children’s version of the epic back then and I’m sure I read it at least a few hundred times. Even then, I used to be immensely drawn towards the description of virtues and adventures of Lord Rama. I haven’t yet read any of the versions by Valmiki or Tulsidas or Ushasri except the one by R K Narayan, which is an English translation of the Tamil poet Kamba’s Ramayana  (which I found to be highly exquisite). I hope to read all those other versions someday.

Even though I’m an ardent fan of Ramayana, I find certain things in it hard to accept. Of course, I’m talking about Rama’s treatment of his wife, Sita. It’s so unfair. No interpretation of those actions seems to justify them, at least as I perceive. Rama declares that he loves Sita very much. If that’s the case, how could he have behaved so insensitively? Why did Sita have to prove her purity of dignity while Rama didn’t have to go through any tests? Why his duty towards his wife was considered inferior to his duties and obligations as a king? It’s not as if there is any credibility in the drunken dobhi’s remarks. Hmm…the rules back then were so biased.

And I also have difficulty with agreeing with the idea that Sita should be regarded as a role model by the modern women. It was emphasized by even the great Swami Vivekananda. I admit that Sita is virtuous and we should all look up to her in many aspects but just following orders and allowing others to hurt your self-respect is definitely not among the qualities I would idolize. My role model would be someone who stands up for herself and seeks justice.

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5 responses

19 10 2009
Sunita

Very Interesting.. I just read the article! Ravana was supposed to be one the best rulers in the history.. which amazed me when I first heard about it.

19 10 2009
sireeshaavvari

Yeah, Ravana has many virtues. He is a great ruler and a devotee, intellectual, etc etc. Looks like his only vice is womanizing. of course he is also egotistical/proud.I wonder how his attitide is towards his wife/wives. As they say, we should judge one’s character by how he/she treats women, animals and servants.

25 10 2009
Sree

I had actually wondered a thousand times maybe.. Like Ravana captured Sita in order to seek revenge on Rama for insulting his sis Surpanaka.. he just kept Sita in captivity, did not touch her against her wishes, nope did not cut her nose or disfigure her in anyway..so when Rama who made Sita go through hell when she was with him and also left her for the words of the society and Lakshmana who left his lawfully wedded wife to be with his brother and SIL and cutting of Surpanaka’s nose be treated like Gods.. why not Ravana who had a larger than life ego, maybe his only vice… but then it is one of my many unanswered questions.

26 10 2009
sireeshaavvari

Hmm.. I think the intention of Ravana behind Sita’s adbuction is not just revenge. Surpanakha was really jealous of Sita and this coupled with the insult by Lakshmana made her to scheme against them. She praised Sita’s beauty before her brother and provoked him to capture her and he truly lusted Sita.
And about lakshmana severing Surpanakha’s ears and nose, I don’t say it’s commendable but what I gathered from various versions of the epic, Surpanakha literally throws herself at them and behaves in a really obscene manner. I always felt that she deserved what she got.
Anyways, I too find it hard to accept the fact that one’s duty to one’s wife comes last (after the parents, brothers etc). but for a wife, husband must come first.. 😕

15 12 2011
Sri Rama Rajyam « Peek Inside My Mind

[…] the unanswered questions regarding the treatment of Sita (a few of my thoughts on this here), the charm of Ramayana holds good to me even to this day. It was my favorite childhood read and I […]

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