This essay seeks to share how our country got the name Bharat, the significance of Ram Navami and definition of Culture.
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 the River Sindhu is 325 B.C., he renamed it as Indus.
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 a nameless highway robber. 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 LR 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 R. 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 LR is important as it brings South India into view for the first time. While in exile LR 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 LR 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 LR who killed Ravana. Since the sect propagates non-violence, it was unacceptable to have LR indulging in violent acts.
Some people have asked for Evidence that LR ever existed? My answer to that is another? In matters of faith, evidence has no meaning.
Philosophy - Lord Rama (LR) stands out as the most glorious characters found in our scriptural literature. LR is considered as the ideal of perfection. The human personality consists of different facets, some more developed than the others. In the case of LR, every facet of his personality is seen projected to absolute perfection. He was an ideal son, perfect husband, a devoted brother. When V 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 LR.
One such criticism against LR is leaving his aged father, King Dasaratha and going away to the forest. LR 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 LR. It was eve of Rama’s coronation when step mother Kaikeyi demanded that younger brother Bharata be crowned King and LR 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. LR 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 LR 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 LR is his sending away Sita to the forest in response to a taunt of washerwomen questioning the purity of the Queen. The part of LR’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 LR heard a single dissenting noise against him he made the great sacrifice by sending his Queen away. In today’s world, crores of rupees are found in Ministers houses yet none of them has the decency to resign. 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 LR’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. LR made Sugreeva challenge Vali and while the fight was in progress LR 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 Valimiki conveys a deeper significance to mankind. Vali represents the lower nature of man while Sugreeva is the opposite. V 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. Thru 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. As a nation, we were not prepared for the Indo-China War of 1962. Yet chacha Nehru got into it without knowing the state of preparedness of our forces. Nearly forty years after that man made disaster, the soldiers of today still shudder at the thought of taking on the Chinese.
LR carried bows and arrows always! Did it mean that he represented Violence? This symbolizes his alertness and readiness to fight against inequity and thus establish justice and peace. By leading from the front, LR was setting an eg 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. If you do not respond you will perpetually be cribbing, unhappy.
It is something that leaders of today must learn from the character of LR. Indian forces are not to cross the Line of Control what ever may be the provocation. Our jawans are dying, women becoming widows yet we must fight with our hands tied. Thousands of Kashmiri Pandits have become homeless during the last twelve years of Pak sponsored terrorism yet we must be good boys. The onus for Peace is always on us. Unprovoked firing across the LOC is a regular feature. Yet we will respond but never dictate terms. What LR symbolized was Aggressive Goodness, what our politicians symbolize is Cowardice. My heart bleeds for the armed forces. This is what Lord Krishna had to say – excerpts from The Holy Geeta – commentary by Swami Chinamayananda – Ch III on Karma Yoga.
Verse 4 – “Not by non-performance of actions does man reach actionlessness, nor by renunciation does he attain Perfection”. By mere renunciation of action, no one attains perfection. Arjuna’s intention was to run away from the war front, and, therefore, this misguided Hindu was to be reeducated in the right understanding of the immortal culture of the Vedas.
Verse 21 – “ What a great man does, then other men also do, whatever he sets up as a standard, that the world ( people ) follow”. What Krishna is saying that unless Arjuna acts diligently, the chances are that the entire community, will follow the low standards of retreat from action set up by him and thus they will ultimately invite a general decadence of culture in life. The very creed of Krishna is “active resistance to evil”. His non-violence is not the instinctive incapacity of the day-dreaming coward who cannot stand up against injustice and fight for the accepted principles of national culture.
Take these two verses and think of how our politicians behave. They ask the armed forces to fight, mostly, with their hands tied, refuse to take tough decisions – stop the nation from bleeding, want to show the world how tolerant, large hearted we are. With such examples, why do we blame our sportsmen for lack of killer instinct? Our cricketers are the good boys, will never fight back - be aggressive, accept bad treatment on foreign soil, never offend our guests. How cane we expect them to win matches when the nation’s leaders have set such appalling standards?
Desire is the root cause of all unhappiness. Till Sita was happy with LR, she never found any difference between the life style of Ayodhya and the jungle. That was till she spotted the golden deer (Ravana in disguise). On hearing LR’s voice she gets anxious about his safety. She urges brother Lakhsman to go to his aid. Although L assures her that LR cannot come to any harm, she reprimands him. In the original Ramayana Sita’s words leave much to be desired. What Valmiki was trying to show that once a persons mind gets filled with desire, you will say things that you might normally not have said or for that matter do not mean at all. Such is the power of desire. So shell shocked was L with Sita’s words that he chose to keep silent and went into the forest leaving her unguarded. So also today, we will go to any extent to acquire materialistic objects, some sell drugs/
fake products, become extortionists, cheat small investors and so on. Is there any end to the amount of money that we desire? All that we get is materialistic comfort. Spiritual and cultural values alone can save the world. That is the message of the Ramayana.
Since LR functioned in the world outside with a perfectly controlled mind, the result had to be Rama-Rajya. It is the spread of such literature that has sustained the culture of our country. Now some of you may ask, what is Culture?
It is the sum total value of values expressed through art, religion, literature, social institutions and behavior, the overt acts of individuals and mass action inspired by collective urges. Its first characteristic is Continuity.
A distinctive culture comes into existence when people develop a continuos way of life. This is expressed in many ways like common traditions and norms of conduct, common institutions (marriage, family) common memory of triumphs achieved (Ramayana, Bharata war fought at Kurushetra between the Pandavas and Kauravas). Example where ever we go in India there are certain accepted norms of conduct.
The most important characteristic of a vital culture is a common outlook among the people, who when faced with adversity, difficulty can generate a collective will to action. However, when the collective will to resist adverse circumstances is weak, the culture starts decaying (do you think it is happening today, since a common will to tackle the country’s problems seems to be lacking). When a person belongs to a religion whose origin is outside Bharat, no longer does he identify with the traditions and triumphs of the past or draw inspiration from epics like Ramayan or Mahabharat.
1. Read more - www.festivalsofindia.in/ramnavami/
2. Read more - www.hindujagruti.org
3. Travel to Chitrakoot