Tree of Knowledge
By Niranjana KarthigaiRajan
Ram Navami is the auspicious day on which Sri Rama, the seventh Avatar of Lord Vishnu, incarnated in the human form in the land of Ayodhya as the son of King Dasaratha. “Yavad sthasyanti girayaha sarithashcha mahithale tavad ramayana katha lokeshu pracharishyati,” said Brahma. This means that the glory of Ramayana would prevail until mountains, Sun, Moon exist and rivers flow on this Earth. True to this statement, apart from India, Ramayana transcends all boundaries with versions of the epic existing in Burma, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam and China.
Here’s an interesting note on the inception of this great epic consisting of 24,000 slokas. Once Sage Valmiki met Sage Narada and listed 16 traits of the ideal man. He enquired about a person who possesses all these qualities in this world. Sage Narada without a second thought uttered the name “Rama” (son of Dasaratha). So, what are those 16 traits?
A person who is ethical, has valour, is a saviour, is righteous, truthful, self-determined, praised for good-conduct, aids all beings, is a leader, is skilful, handsome, a possessor of all souls, one who has control over his anger, is brilliant, one who is not envious and not envied by others, and even whom the gods fear.
Uniqueness of Rama’s Incarnation
Rama is the embodiment of dharma (righteousness) for which he is hailed as Maryada Purushottama (the perfect man). As Swami Vivekananda said, Rama is the embodiment of truth, of morality, the ideal son, the ideal husband, and above all, the ideal king. Rama has walked in life as prescribed in the Vedas, making it easier for mankind to follow in His footsteps.
Lord Shiva explains the significance of Rama nama to his wife Devi Parvathy as, “Shri Rama Rama Rameti, Rame Rame manorame; sahasrenama tattulyam, Rama Nama Varanane”. Rama nama is the most powerful of the thousand names of Vishnu in Vishnu Sahasranamam.
The purpose of Rama’s incarnation is not just to kill the demon Ravana. If the Paramatma can create the Universe with His mere sankalpam (will in the mind), Ravana can also be annihilated with His sankalpam. Also, Ravana’s vow from Shiva (that he can’t be killed by any celestial beings excluding human and monkey) doesn’t stand valid because the Omnipotent possesses swathantreyam (free will). So, His purpose of incarnation is not to kill but to accept Vibhishana’s service and to mingle with His devotees.
Deciphering Common Myths
There are few misconceptions about Rama and some people consider His act of agni-pariksha and sending His wife Sita to the forest as chauvinistic. In this article, I wish to decipher the most common false beliefs.
- Myth 1: Rama sent his wife to the forest
No, it was Sita’s decision to go to the forest. Sita had a wish to raise their kids amidst rishis in the forest. But Sita, being a queen of Ayodhya, relinquishing her responsibility by herself would have created uncertainty and waves of doubt in people’s mind. Knowing Sita’s wish and in order to fulfil it, Rama ordered Lakshmana to leave her in the forest. He thus shouldered the blame to avoid people’s wrath on Sita – which still persists, even after yugas!.
- Myth 2: Rama killed Vaali from behind
Yes, but Rama himself gives seven reasons why it was not adharma to kill Vaali from behind. Also, when Vaali himself praises Ram’s glory, there is no question of debate. One reason, for example, was that the world was then ruled by Ikshvaku Vamsa and Rama, being its descendent was duty-bound to punish the guilty.
- Myth 3: Rama asked Sita to take Agni-pariksha
No, it was Sita who asked Lakshmana to set up the fire for the Agni-pariksha.
The Enchanting Rama
When Lakshmana chopped off Surpanaka’s nose, ferocious Surpanaka entered the courtroom of Ravana to narrate her woeful story and ask that a war be waged against the sons of Dasaratham but she happened to start with an odd narration in praise of Rama. She exclaimed, “tarunau roopa saṃpannau sukumaarau mahaabalau” (great-looking, gentle and mighty). Such was His charm!
Also, Tara and Mandodari (bereaved wives of Vaali and Ravana) end up praising Him. Tara hails Rama’s supreme nature in terms such as incomparable and indeterminable. She calls Him as “one who is self-conquered, the supreme among the righteous and with absolute glory.”
On seeing the slain Ravana on the battlefield, the grief-stricken Mandodari recalls how she surmised Rama’s Parathvam that He is a Paramatma, else, how it would have been feasible for the mere monkeys to build a bridge over the ocean and enter the Lanka?
As Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita, “paritranaya sadhunam
vinasaya ca duskrtam dharma-samsthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge”, He incarnates millennium after millennium to protect the pious, annihilate the miscreants and to uphold dharma. The core message of Ramayana to humanity is that good deeds are the means to reach a higher plane and similarly bad deeds lead to devastation and doom.
On this Ram Navami let’s completely surrender at His lotus feet and cross the ocean of samsara (cycle of birth and death). Jai Shri Ram !!
* Published in print edition on 5 April 2019