Ram Navami

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This article tells you about how India got the name Bharat and the significance of Ramnavami.  It is a compilation based on inputs from books and learned men.  

Bharat – Residents of the sub-continent called their home “Bharat” after the ancient king Bharata, whose name means “one who is capable of nourishing and protecting”. King Bharata was capable of protecting and nourishing the “Golden Bird” of India when it was the flourishing international center of wealth and culture. Bharata also means “lover of knowledge” or in this case “the land that loves knowledge”. Which is why in most systems of Indian philosophy the importance of knowledge is always emphasized? When Alexander crossed river Sindhu is 325 B.C., he renamed it as Indus.

Ramnavami
Ramayan was probably the most popular TV serial ever. When we did the 14 kms trek from Katra to Vaishno Devi in 1989, people stopped walking during the telecast. Starting 8.45 am there was a mad scramble to the nearest TV set.

The Story of Valmiki (V) - In the early part of his life, V was supposedly a nameless highway robber using modern day connotations (no offence meant). One day the great saint Narada was passing by and V attacked the holy man. N asked V, why he was robbing him. V replied “to take care of my family”. N said “when you rob a person you incur a lot of sin. Would your family share that sin also?” I am sure they will answered V. N asked V to tie him, go home and ask his family whether they were ready to share his sins along with the money he was taking home. The members of V’s family refused to share his sins. That’s when the robber understood the truth. He asked N for forgiveness. N taught the robber how to worship Bhagwan. It is said that the robber so engrossed himself in meditation that ants built anthills around him. After years, a voice came from nowhere asking the meditating robber to get up from his meditation. The voice named him “Valmiki” meaning “he that was born in the anthill”.

Story behind Ramayana – Once Valmiki was walking through the forest and saw doves romantically involved with each other. As the sage was busy enjoying that sight an arrow passed him and struck the male dove. V saw the hunter and called him a wretch but immediately as a saint felt he should not have spoken like that. Then a voice from the sky said “O, V, do not be distressed. Yours words are poetic. This is the right time for you to write the story of the Ramayana. V wrote the entire R as the narration of the crying female dove to him”.

Valmiki used the Ramayan to express the pure Advaita philosophy, the contents of the Upanishads. Ram is an Avatar of Lord Vishnu and Shri Ram projects the Indian ideals of life. Rama is the perfect man, Sita the perfect wife and Lakhsman the perfect brother.

There are many versions of the Ramayana. The Hindi version is written by Tulsidas, the Malayalam one by Thuncheth Ezuthachan. The original text was in Sanskrit.

RAMA means “SARVESHU RAMANTE ITI RAMAH” that means which revels in every one of us, the pure light of Consciousness, the Atman, and the self. 

Ramchandra Period (2350-1950 B.C.) – The story of Sri Ram is important as it brings South India into view for the first time. While in exile Sri Ram visited various places, one of them being a place called Janasthana, a colony of the Rakshasas situated south to the middle of the Godavri. The Rakhasas ill-treated the Munis and Ramji espoused their cause and killed a number of Rakhasas. In order to seek revenge, Ravana decided to abduct Sita away. In the Jain version of the Ramayan, it is Lakhsman and not Ramji who killed Ravana. Since the sect propagates non-violence, it was unacceptable to have Shri Ram indulging in violent acts.

Philosophy - Sri Ram (SR) stands out as the most glorious characters found in our scriptural literature. SR is considered as the ideal of perfection. The human personality consists of different facets, some more developed than the others. In the case of SR, every facet of his personality is seen projected to absolute perfection. He was an ideal son, perfect husband, a devoted brother. When Valmiki highlighted one aspect of his personality to perfection, he could not do justice to other facets. Which is why some critics find inconsistencies in the divine character of SR.

One such criticism against SR is leaving his aged father, King Dasaratha and going away to the forest. SR knew that his father would not survive the sorrow of his exile yet he left. What V was depicting was an ideal son to a father. A situation was created to highlight the greatness of SR. It was eve of Rama’s coronation when step mother Kaikeyi demanded that younger brother Bharata be crowned King and SR sent away to the forest in exile. Inspite of these challenges Rama stood out as a real son. It was the son’s duty to fulfill the father’s promises inspite of insurmountable challenges. SR decided to undergo the hardship of a fourteen year exile to honor his father’s word. We must the admire the beauty in his character rather than critize him for leaving his father. If SR had not honored his father’s promise, think of how his father would have felt. King Dasaratha died a proud father, went up with his head high. Is there a better way to leave this world?
Any man who leaves this world with unfulfilled desires is bound to carry the burden on to his next birth.

Another common criticism against SR is his sending away Sita to the forest in response to a taunt of washerwomen questioning the purity of the Queen. The part of SR’s personality that is faulted is his ideal kingship. In those days an ideal king was that one who was accepted by all his subjects unlike the present system of coalition or minority rule. So when SR heard a single dissenting noise against him he made the great sacrifice by sending his Queen away. While we keep on harping for honesty amongst our rulers, here was a Ruler who was honest to the point and we criticize him. Which man would want to be separated from his wife?

Another criticism of SR’s character is his apparent cowardice when he hid behind the tree to shoot his arrow at Vali. Vali and Sugreeva were monkey kings. Vali was vicious and over threw his brother Sugreeva and usurped the throne. SR made Sugreeva challenge Vali and while the fight was in progress SR shot down Vali from behind a tree. Like in Mahabharat, the Kauravas won the game of dice by unfair means so it is accepted that the Pandavas had to use similar means to win the war.

Thank Bhagwan they were not like today’s rulers. Atalji gave the Pakis two full days to retreat from Kargil. What did the Pakis do? Mined the entire place making our soldiers lame ducks. A mother who lost her son on Tiger Hill would be proud but loosing your son to a land mine!

Through this act Valmiki conveys a deeper significance to mankind. Vali represents the lower nature of man while Sugreeva is the opposite. Vali is said to have gone thru extensive austerity and acquired a boon by which he acquired half the strength of his opponent. There was no way anyone could beat Vali. This was meant to convey that the sense objects of the world are powerful. They can make you their slave taking away your intellect.

Through this episode what Valmiki is suggesting is to stay away from these objects initially until you gain control over them. As you build up your self control you come closer to the sense objects but now they have lost the ability to over power you. This is not escapism but being plain practical. If I am not prepared for something why must I get into it headlong? It is the recipie for failure.

SR carried bows and arrows always! Did it mean that he supported violence? This symbolizes his alertness and readiness to fight against inequity and thus establish justice and peace. By leading from the front, SR set an e.g. for the rest to emulate. Man must not be weak and accept unrighteousness meekly. What it means that if somebody hits / wants to kill you, do not take it lying down or else it would be construed to be a sign of weakness.

What Sri Ram symbolized was Aggressive Goodness.

Also read
1. Significance of Ramnavami
2. Pics of Chitrakoot
3. Ramayana around Rameshwaram