Disclaimer: This article is not meant to hurt the religious sentiments of any religion or sect. The views expressed are completely unpolitical in nature. What justifies the title will only emerge in the conclusion.
“Dasha Hara means removal of 10 bad qualities from within us. Vijaya Dashmi means victory over these 10 bad qualities.” – I woke up to this Dussehra tweet by Virendra Sehwag and recounted how we have grown up learning that the good always wins over the bad; that the bad shall eventually get defeated and the truth shall prevail. Some have also preached Dushehra to be the day when we should all introspect and burn all the internal evils so that wisdom and virtue may be resurrected.
As a child and young adult, I have extremely fond memories of walking, each day of the Navratras with my friends and the Moms’ club, to watch Ramlila. There were also various versions of Ramayana on TV and with each passing year and each version of Ramayana the characters evolved in my Psyche and my views matured.
Because its Dussehra today – the day when evil in the form of Raavana went up in the flames, I’ll talk about how the battle between the good and the evil has evolved for me through the 30+ years of my life.
As a toddler,
my exposure to Raavana was limited to the effigy that was created in our colony and was then burnt on VijayaDashmi. It was fun to watch the huge effigy go up the flames. At that point of time, all that I understood about the ritual was that Raavana was a ‘Bad Man’ and Ram the ‘Good Man’ punished him by killing him with his Bow & Arrow.
Those years just before my Teens,
I learned that Lord Ram had been subject to an exile of 14 years where he lived in jungles with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman. Raavana wrongfully kidnapped Sita and Ram had to wage a war against him to get his wife back. Thus Ram killed Raavan to claim his wife back.
Later as a Teenager,
the horizons of my knowledge of Ramayana widened and I learned that Raavana had a sister Surpnakha who had been insulted by Lakshman. To avenge his sister’s insult Raavan kidnapped Sita and forced her to submit to him and become one of his many wives. To free her from the devil personified, Ram killed Raavana. The added dimension of Raavan trying to avenge his sister’s insult somehow made him less of a villain to me. But an eye for an eye is no solution to deal with any wrong, thus his insulting another man’s wife was not justified and did call for an act that would teach him a lesson.
In my early 20s as youth,
I further learned that Raavana was considered the most learned man on the earth. His prowess had gone to his head and he considered himself to be above the Lord himself. He considered Lord Vishnu as his rival and wanted to defeat him so that he could rule over TriLok. I realized that it was not only about Sita. It was mostly about Raavana’s pride that had caused him to become overconfident, unreasonable and cruel. In his quest for pride, he disregarded his own wife Mandodari who was a pious woman (whom also Raavana had married forcefully) and was 100 percent ashamed of her husband’s deeds. Thus, Ram a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu waged this war which was meant to bring the end of Adharma and resurrect Dharma i.e. Righteousness.
Now, when I review Ramayan on this day of Dushehra, this is what I conclude –
– Raavana kidnapped Sita – check
– Ram waged a war against Raavan to bring back his wife – check
– Ram defeated Raavana and killed him to establish ‘Dharma’ – check
– Ram came back to Ayodhya, got crowned as the king and began his endeavors to create Ram Rajya
And then there was a twist –
Ram gave up Sita and subjected her to a life of austerity in forests with her two sons!
What confuses me is why did Ram go to such great effort to get Sita released from Raavan, if he had to give her up? Because the men of his state did not accept her – a woman who had been away with another man, as their queen!
I sit back and laugh because nothing has changed even today. Women in our country are still only pawns in the larger scheme of things. I do not wish to go into the details of ‘Hows’ and ‘Whys’ of the lacking empowerment among women. That is often and widely talked about and the remedies debated. Even as you read this blog, efforts are being made to change things but issues remain embedded in the very DNA of our culture where what people think comes first, the man comes next and the woman follows last.
With every effigy of Raavana that we burn, we also need to take a vow that none of us emerge as the Ram who became helpless and in the name of call of duty was forced into denouncing Sita. There is and can be no excuse strong enough to justify why any ‘Sita’ may have to undergo Agni Pariksha for no real fault of hers.
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