Dussehra or Vijaya-Dashmi is celebrated on the tenth day of Sharad Navratri, which begins with Ashvin Shukla Prathama and ends with Ashvin Shukla Navami. Dussehra is celebrated every year as a testimony to the triumph of good over evil. The tradition of burning effigies of Raavan (Dashanan), his son Indrajeet (Meghnaad) and brother Kumbhakaran is being followed since ancient civilizations as an integral part of Sanaatan Dharma. But unfortunately, this tradition is losing its essence in our so-called “Modern” and “Liberal” times.
The liberals of today, who love bashing up Indian (read Hindu) culture to show themselves as modern; have killed the ethos of celebrating this festival. And my fight is against them. Those liberals, who write long articles depicting “how Raavan was a great brother who avenged his sister’s insult”; they circulate pictures on social media telling “how Raavan was a humble king who never touched Goddess Sita”; carry out discussions questioning “burning of effigies of Raavan”; and go to that a length saying that “Lord Ram distrusted his wife Goddess Sita even after Agni-Pareeksha and banised her”! Totally preposterous!
There is no iota of a doubt that Raavan was the greatest scholar of his time. The great-grandson of Brahma was a master of four Vedas and six shastras (symbolising his ten heads). He was deft in skills of statecraft and diplomacy. Infact, Raavan and his brother Kumbhkaran were actually Jaya and Vijaya, the gatekeepers of Vishnu, which made them a little arrogant. So much so that once when the four Kumaras, mind-born sons of Brahma showed up at the gates of Vaikunth (Vishnu’s abode), Jaya-Vijaya mistook them for naked children (a result of their tapasya). This enraged the sages so much, they cursed Jaya-Vijaya saying that they would be parted from their lord. When they asked for forgiveness, the sages said that they could either spent seven lifetimes on earth as Vishnu’s avatars’ allies or three lifetimes as their enemies. They chose the latter. In one of those three lifetimes, Jaya-Vijaya were born as Raavan and Kumbhkaran.
Raavan was thus doomed to live a cursed life, a life worthy of a villain. Ramayan depicts him as evil for he was supposed to live a sinful life.
Without even knowing the true meaning of Sage Valmiki’s Ramayan or reading a single verse of Goswami Tulsidas’ Ramcharitmanas, liberals have taken up on themselves to interpret the meanings of many events in a way that suits them; and the worst part is that they are propagating the distorted version. So, through this article of mine, I will bust these myths.
1. Raavan was a great brother who avenged his sister’s insult
Surpanakha was married to the Asura Dushtabuddhi. Initially, Surpanakha’s husband enjoyed high favor with her brother Raavan, as a privileged member of Raavan’s court, but Raavan had Dushtabuddhi killed due to the latter’s growing ambition for more power. This act earned Raavan, his sister’s great displeasure.
Also, Raavan haven’t cared at all about Surpanakha when she told him that Laxman cut her nose. He only got excited once Surpanakha told him that he is in a forest with an extremely beautiful woman. His abduction of Goddess Sita was out of pure lust.
Thus, calling Raavan a “loving” and a caring brother is simply far-fetched.
2. Raavan never touched Sita in her captivity
Raavan once camped near the city of Kuber, with a mission to slay an ogre Madhu. After completing his mission, Raavan was resting in the vicinity of Kuber’s city. With a cloudless sky, a lovely atmosphere and the love-laden songs sung by Kinnaras and Vidhyadharas, he easily fell prey to his own lust.
Unfortunately, he was not accompanied by any of his favourites. It so happened by sheer accident that Rambha, the celestial nymph, passed by. She was married to Nalakubara, son of Kuber and therefore in all fairness, the daughter-in-law of Raavan. Of course, Raavan was unaware of this fact at first, when he grabbed her to him. Rambha pleaded with him to restrain himself informing that she actually belongs to Nalakubara and the relationship between her and Raavan was far above carnal appeasement (Valmiki Ramayana, Uttara Kanda, Canto XXVI, Sloka 29). “I could have agreed on that had you been the wife of my son Indrajeet. But you are the wife of my brother’s son! The plea which you have given in the words, ‘I am your daughter-in-law’ holds well in the case of those who have (only) one husband. Celestial nymphs have no husband nor are gods committed to a single wife such is the eternal law obtaining in the realm of gods” (Sloka 39). Raavan violated her that day, though she kept pleading with him not to do so. She was not for this kind of an illicit relationship. Raavan, appeased and satiated, left her alone. She went to her husband Nalakubara with folded hands and tears welling up her eyes and narrated him the entire episode.
The enraged Nalakubara poured a little water in his palms and pronounced this curse on Raavan, sprinkling the water:
“Since, O blessed lady, you stand violated by him perforce, unwilling as you were, he shall no longer be able to approach any other young woman who is unwilling to accept him. When (however) stricken with love, he will violate a woman who is unwilling to approach him, his head will actually be split into seven pieces that (very moment) (Sloka 55).
Raavan was shaken for the first time in his entire lifetime. “Hearing of the aforesaid execration, which caused his hair to stand on end, Raavan, (the ten-headed monster) felt inclined no more to copulate with women who were unwilling to approach him” (Sloka 59). And this gives relief to all women, who were devoted to their husbands and had been brought by him, says Valmiki.
Thus, Raavan’s act of not touching Goddess Sita was not because “goodness of his heart” or his “humbleness”, but out of fear of his own death.
3. Lord Ram wronged Goddess Sita
Lord Ram never banished mother Sita. Banishment implied being evicted out of the kingdom into the forest without any arrangements for food, clothing or shelter. That was what happened to Lord Ram when he was banished by his step-mother, Kaikeyi. But Lord Ram asked Lakshman to escort Goddess Sita to the hermitage of the sage Valmiki, where the venerable sage received her with a respectful aarti (worship) and the elderly lady-hermits lovingly cared for her. As the hermitage was in the kingdom of Lord Ram and under his protection, it is entirely incorrect to say that the Lord banished her, for the Lord indirectly arranged for her food, clothing, shelter and care.
For someone to understand the reason for doing so, we need to appreciate the values held sacred by the Vedic culture that the Ramayan demonstrates. The Vedic culture considers all relationships and all positions as opportunities for sacred service, service to God and to all his children. When Lord Ram heard the accusations being leveled against his consort, this situation constituted an ethical crisis. In an ethical crisis, one has two choices, both moral, unlike in a moral crisis, when one has two choices, one moral and the other, immoral. To resolve an ethical crisis, one needs profound wisdom to recognize the higher moral principle and adjust the lower moral principle accordingly. So, through this incident, Lord Ram, who was God incarnate playing the role of an ideal human being, taught us how to wisely resolve ethical crises. As an ideal husband, the Lord was duty-bound to protect his wife. But as the ideal king, he was also duty-bound to exemplify and teach his citizens, whom he loved like his own children, the path to spiritual advancement. Ordinarily, people are very attached materially to spouse, children, house and wealth. So, the king is duty-bound to demonstrate to his citizens the principle of detachment so that they become inspired toward detachment and thus make spiritual advancement. That’s why Lord Ram considered his duty as an ideal king more important than as the ideal husband and so sacrificed his love for his wife for the sake of his love for his children (citizens). But he didn’t abandon his duty as a husband; he thoughtfully did that duty by transferring Goddess Sita from his direct care in the palace to his indirect care in the hermitage. Mother Sita, understanding the heart of her Lord, gracefully accepted her part in his sacrifice.
Even at the time of their marriage, Lord Ram had promised Goddess Sita that he would take an ekapathni vrta (he would not accept any other wives). For the Ashwameda Yagna to be conducted, both husband and wife needed to be present. Instead of re-marrying a princess after he separated with her, he kept his fidelity to Sita intact and got a Gold statue substituted for her (Gold never tarnishes, just like Goddess Sita’s character).
Unfortunately, all of us, for whose sake he did this glorious sacrifice, fail to appreciate him.
4. Logic behind burning effigies of Raavan every Dussehra
We incorrectly consider burning of effigy of Raavan as burning “the Demon King Lankesh who abducted Goddess Sita”. The burning of effigy of Raavan is a symbolism, to burning the five vices of kaam (lust), krodh (rage), lobh (greed), moh (attachment) and ahankaar (conceit). These five vices were responsible for the downfall of the mighty demon king at the hands of a human; the king who was bestowed a boon that no god, demon, kinnar or gandharva could ever kill him.
Ramayan is much more a mythological epic than the lessons to be learnt for life. Lord Ram’s life teaches us the value of principles, a principle that the king should be spotless, a principle that a son should be obedient, a principle that a brother should love to an extent that he can leave all worldly pleasures for his brother and a principle that a husband trusts & cares for his wife even in her physical absence. Goddess Sita’s life teaches us the morals of maintaining her honour despite all allurements, temptations and threats.
The Ramayan is a communication that even the Lord when he descends to the world to perform his duties has to suffer and he gracefully accepts this suffering.
Jai Shri Ram!