Heritage of an ideal society King Ram ruled
Though Lord Rām lived and ruled Bhārat thousands of years ago, his life and values are still cherished and extolled. There is hardly any King in Indian history except Him who is celebrated so much till today. The life of King Ram is thankfully covered through the itihaas of Rāmāyana and not our history books.
Rām Rājya and politics….
Lord Rām’s legacy continues to rule the hearts of Indian people and politicians alike. Last year Nitin Gadkari, the President of India’s largest opposition party, the BJP, asked his party workers to bring back the glory of Rām Rājya in the 21st century. Sometime back the BJP unveiled their election manifesto and pledged to work towards bringing in 'Rām Rājya' in the country. Symbolically the pledge was made on the occasion of Rām Navami. Gujarat’s Chief Minister Narendra Modi also said he believed in Gandhi’s Rām Rājya. When pressed to explain what it meant, Modi said that Rām Rājya meant a “welfare state”. Some critiques call BJP’s stand as ‘out-of-touch’ politics.
Even the late Rajiv Gandhi (former Prime Minister of India) inaugurated the Congress party’s 1989 election campaign from the vicinity of Ayodhya with a promise to usher in Rām Rājya that incidentally was also Mahatma Gandhi’s dream. There have been and still are many politicians who wish to give Rām Rājyaa concrete shape in their own way.
But was there any period in Indian history where we had a glimpse of a golden period or an ideal society? In fact the 17th century saint Sant Tukārām extolled Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj's reign as Rām Rājya in which ruler and subjects were all equal and there was all-round welfare.
However, it is to be noted that King Rām’s exemplary character and governance make it the most popular text book on moral living and righteous polity.
Rām Rājya and Gandhiji….
In post-colonial India, Rām Rājya as a concept was first mooted by Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhiji announced that Rām Rājya would be brought once Independence arrived. When he was asked about the ideal state, he talked about Rām Rājya.
By using the Rām Rājya slogan, Gandhiji implied an ideal Rājya where values of justice, equality, idealism, renunciation and sacrifice were practised.
On the subject of Ram Rajya, Gandhi wrote on February 26, 1947, "Let no one commit the mistake of thinking that Rām Rajya means a rule of Hindus. My Rām is another name for Khuda or God. I want Khuda Raj which is the same thing as the Kingdom of God on Earth." Obviously this meant an ideal society where everybody follows a code of righteous living, lives content and happy and meet their essential needs.
Rām Rājya according to many scholars meant that the state (Rājya) was the sole legitimate power, which imposes limits upon its exercise of power, either for the greater happiness of the people, or to evade a greater tyranny that could be caused by moral outrage or self-righteousness.
Rām Rājya historically….
Historically, from the Rāmayana, the chapter on Ayodhya gives a majestic description of Rām Rājya, where peace, prosperity and tranquility reigned, for there was no one to challenge the seat of Ayodhya, literally the land without wars. Incidentally in Hindi, "Ayodhya" means "a place where there is no war. (A-Yuddh)" Hence "Rām Rājya" is described as an ideal society. Is there any country that doesn’t want peace, prosperity and tranquility?
Many authors who researched the epic Rāmayana have concluded that Rām Rājya is not a myth or imagination, it is an historic truth of its times and for the time to come.
So why are still talking about Rām Rājya in this day and age…
Well everybody in the world wants good governance. With the heritage of Lord Rām that we have, the name of Lord Rām has become synonymous with good governance hence the clamor for Ram Rajya. Just last year the India's Law and Justice Minister Dr. M Veerappa Moily, who is also an eminent poet, writer and thinker, was awarded the Bharatiya Jnanpith's prestigious 21st Moortidevi Award for his outstanding five-volume magnum opus ‘Shri Rāmayana Mahanveshanam’. According to Mr.Moily, what present day India has to learn from the Rāmayana is to build a nation of many voices, many cultures and many peoples.
Interesting take on Rām Rājya….
Interestingly, to quote Mr. Moily from his acceptance speech that ''At the heart of the epic there are three distinct cultures: the Lankan culture of acquisition, pleasure and power; the Ayodhya culture of artistic and academic progress and the culture of Kiskindha... mostly tribal and backward in terms of development in the modern sense. Initially, there is friction among these three cultures. However, when Vibhishana, the Rākshasa King, and Hanuman, the Vaanara noble, become allies of Rāma, the King of Ayodhya, all the three cultures come together and fuse into one great culture-- the culture of Rāma Rajya.'' Dr Moily recited a stanza describing King Dashrath's attitude in treating even the poorest of the poor as ''equal,'' saying ''his feelings reflect true Rāma Rajya.''
Another stanza he cited dwelt on the education Vishwamitra imparted to Rāma and Lakshamana, by ordering the brothers to walk instead of covering a distance on chariot. ''Unless the rulers, administrators, experience the pain and suffering of the poorest and weakest, they cannot be good in their jobs,'' he summed up. Isn’t this something for our politicians and administrators to emulate?
Rām Rājya ~ the restart point
May be this knowledge of the Rām Rājya concept is the starting point for something that might bring back India’s glory in modern times. But what is Rām Rājya without a Rām? The knowledge of Rām Rājya alone is not enough as Rām needs to be understood first before the Rājya. And that too from the biography written by Valmiki who was a contemporary or King Rām. Do we know enough of what Ram said in the various situations in the Rāmayana? Do we know why he said and why he behaved in a particular way? Knowing the hero is better than just worshipping the hero with an aarti thali.
The author is from Mumbai, India and has made New Zealand his home for more than a decade. He is a keen Indology enthusiast and has specific interest in the wisdom traditions and perennial philosophy of India.
•Raja Dharma or the Science of Governance by Swami Dayanand Saraswati
•Town Planning Arthashastra