Rama is the hero of the Ramayana whose author is Valmiki. The story of the Ramayana is a very short one. Besides it is simple and in itself there is nothing sensational about it. Rama is the son of Dasharatha, the king of Ayodhya the modern Benares. Dasharatha had three wives, Kausalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra besides several hundred concubines. Kaikeyi had married Dasharatha on terms which were at the time of marriage unspecified and which Dasharatha was bound to fulfil whenever he was called upon by Kaikeyi to do so. Dasharatha was childless for a long time. An heir to the throne was ardently desired by him. Seeing that there was no hope of his begetting a son on any of his three wives he decided to perform a Putreshti Yajna and called the sage Shrung at the sacrifice who prepared Pindas and gave the three wives of Dasharatha to eat them. After they ate the Pindas three wives became pregnant and gave birth to sons. Kausalya gave birth to Rama, Kaikeyi gave birth to Bharata and Sumitra gave birth to two sons Laxman and Satrughana. In due course Rama was married to Sita. When Rama came of age, Dasharatha thought of resigning the throne in favour of Rama and retiring from kingship. While this was being settled Kaikeyi raised the question of rendering her satisfaction of the terms on which she had married Dhasharatha. On being asked to state her terms she demanded that her son Bharata should be installed on the throne in preference to Rama and Rama should live in forest for 14 years. Dasharatha with great reluctance agreed. Bharata became king of Ayodhya and Rama accompanied by his wife Sita and his step brother Laxman went to live in the forest. While the three living in the forest Ravana the king of Lanka kidnapped Sita and took her away and kept her in his palace intending to make her one of his wives. Rama and Laxman then started search of Sita. On the way they meet Sugriva and Hanuman two leading personages of the Vanara (monkey) race and form friendship with them. With their help the place of the abduction was located and with their help they marched on Lanka, defeated Ravana in the battle and rescued Sita. Rama returns with Laxman and Sita to Ayodhya. By that time twelve years had elapsed and the term prescribed by Kaikeyi was fulfilled with the result that Bharata gave up the throne and in his place Rama became the king of Ayodhya.
Such is in brief the outline of the story of the Ramayana as told by Valmiki.
There is nothing in this story to make Rama the object of worship. He is only a dutiful son. But Valmiki saw something extraordinary in Rama and that is why he undertook to compose the Ramayana. Valmiki asked Narada the following Question1 :
“Tell me Oh! Naradha, who is the most accomplished man on earth at the present time?”
and then goes on to elaborate what he means by accomplished man. He defines his accomplished man as:
“Powerful, one who knows the secret of religion, one who knows gratitude, truthful, one who is ready to sacrifice his self interest even when in distress to fulfil a religious vow, virtuous in his conduct, eager to safeguard the interests of all, strong pleasing in appearance with power of self-control, able to subdue anger, illustrious, with no jealousy for the prosperity of others, and in war able to strike terror in the hearts of Gods.”
Naaradha then asks for time to consider and after mature deliberation tells him that the only person who can be said to possess these virtues is Rama, the son of Dasharatha.
It is because of his virtues that Rama has come to be deified.
But is Rama a worthy personality of deification? Let those who accept him an object
worthy of worship as a God consider the following facts.
Rama’s birth is miraculous and it may be that the suggestion that he was born from a pinda prepared by the sage Shrung is an allegorical glass to cover the naked truth that he was begotten upon Kausalya by the Sage Shrung although the two did not stand in the relationship of husband and wife. In any case his birth if not disreputable in its origin is certainly unnatural.
There are other incidents connected with the birth of Rama the unsavory character of which it will be difficult to deny.
Valmiki starts his Ramayana by emphasizing the fact that Rama is an Avatar of Vishnu and it is Vishnu who agreed to take birth as Rama and be the son of Dhasharatha. The God Brahma came to know of this and felt that in order that this Rama Avatar of Vishnu be a complete success arrangement shall be made that Rama shall have powerful associates to help him and co-operate with him. There were none such existing then.
The Gods agreed to carry out the command of Brahma and engaged themselves in wholesale acts of fornication not only against Apsaras who were prostitutes not only against the unmarried daughters of Yakshas and Nagas but also against the lawfully wedded wives of Ruksha, Vidhyadhar, Gandharvas, Kinnars and Vanaras and produced the Vanaras who became the associates of Rama.
Rama’s birth is thus accompanied by general debauchery if not in his case certainly in the case of his associates. His marriage to Sita is not above comment. According to Buddha Ramayana, Sita was the sister of Rama, both were the children of Dasharatha. The Ramayana of Valmiki does not agree with the relationship mentioned in Buddha Ramayana.
According to Valmiki Sita was the daughter of the king Janaka of Videha and therefore not a sister of Rama. This is not convincing for even according to Valmiki she is not the natural born daughter of Janaka but a child found by a farmer in his field while ploughing it and presented by him to king Janaka and brought up by Janaka. It was therefore in a superficial sense that Sita could be said to be the daughter of Janaka. The story in the Buddha Ramayana is natural and not inconsistent with the Aryan rules of marriage. If the story is true, then Rama’s marriage to Sita is no ideal to be copied. In another sense Rama’s marriage was not an ideal marriage which could be copied.
One of the virtues ascribed to Rama is that he was monogamous. It is difficult to understand how such a notion could have become common. For it has no foundation in fact. Even Valmiki refers to the many wives of Rama. These were of course in addition to his many concubines. In this he was the true son of his nominal father Dasharatha who had not only the three wives referred to above but many others.
Source: ‘Dr. Bahasaheb Ambedkar Writings and Speeches’, Vol. IV, Published by Government of Maharashtra, 1987.
…. to be continued
AMBEDKAR MISSION TOWARDS ELIMINATION OF CASTE DISCRIMINATION
Continuation from the previous issue….
Before, I conclude, I just want all of us to introspect whether the ruling classes of our countries really followed the path shown to us by our founding fathers. Whether all the citizens in our societies really have equal opportunities and most importantly whether all those who are supposed to execute rule of law as per our respective constitutional provisions really do so in all their honesty or is it an open fact that constitution, modernity, rule of law in our societies are as per power and positions of people and not the same for all. Unless, we remove the discrimination among us, outlaw caste and gender discrimination completely, out-law untouchability and violence against Dalits in our constitutions and implement and execute land reforms to change rural power structure which still is feudal and casteist, things will remain the same. Indian laws that way can be a model for rest of the South Asia as we outlawed untouchability way back but it is also important that merely constitutional provisions are not going to change our society. Our education system must develop spirit of inquiry and rational thinking. Our teachers must be trained so that they welcome this spirit of inquiry from the students and not justify every wrong in the name of tradition, culture or religion. There will always be a war between modern principles of democracy and the feudal caste minds prevalent in our societies. The chaos and anarchy in our villages and streets are not going to help except the imperialist power forces who will enjoy our ignorance, superstitions, and divisions among our society. It is time for all of us to ponder over this, bury our hatchets of hatred and focus on developing relationship among different communities, allow our children to grow as per their choices and respect human rights for all. Dalit question, world over is that of human rights and we must defend that at all cost. Unless, constitutional provisions to safeguard them is not done all our talks would be futile. In India the law is there but their implementation are tardy, in Nepal, the laws are now being framed but elsewhere in South Asia, the Dalit question remained unrecognized at the official level and it is time the government focus on it, speak to the Dalit organisations in the respective countries, take them into confidence and amend the laws accordingly for their benefit so that the both as a society and country we grow and there is prosperity and growth for all in the region.
We must remember Dr. Ambedkar’s idea for Dalit Liberation and empowerment comes with his appreciation for Voltaire who maintained that in liberal democracies people have right to dissent and differ which is not a crime. He found emancipation of the Dalits in Buddha’s Karuna and reasoning therefore redefined the whole approach. The idea was not to surrender to another Gods or Goddesses but follow the path of Buddha whose philosophy revolved around human being. A liberal secular socialist democracy is the only way out for Dalits and other marginalized to progress. Theocracies and dictatorship will never do any justice to the emancipation and empowerment of Dalits and other marginalized according to Dr. Ambedkar. It is important that democracy flourish in South Asia and governments adhere to secular principles and ensure that the secular liberal democratic values become part of our constitution so that those victims of religion and religious values are protected legally and can find equal opportunities to progress.
The author is a human rights activist, a radical humanist based in Delhi. This lecture was supposed to be delivered at the programme organized by Sir Ganga Ram Heritage Foundation, Lahore. The author could not participate in the programme as he was not convinced with the aims of the conference and felt it was just an event management.