Friday, October 23, 2015

Should We Burn Ravana?

Please Note: This is a personal opinion with no intention of hurting anyone's sentiments and beliefs. Read with an open mind. 

It was Dussehra yesterday, which for the uninitiated is a festival on which, after 9 days of celebration wherein the Ramayana is enacted in different parts of India as "Ramleela", the effigy of the demonic ten- headed giant named Ravana is burnt; as it is believed to have happened long ago according to Hindu mythology.

The characters of this story have always amused me as I am sure it has many with a critical attitude. As my understanding of human nature grows I am in a conflict of what was told to me in stories by my grandmother. The chief conflict post reading many books and people now is, if there a possibility of an absolute white or dark of a man's nature or character? I know I am not the first person asking this question but I often ponder whether it is because the Kaliyuga that we live in that an absolute white of a person is out of our boundaries of imagination. But looking at the very characters we worship or burn more closely they do not appear to be white and black themselves. Infact Rama and Ravana are like humans today, just shades of grey. They have the very qualities we ourselves do, both the good and the bad, so why is it that only the Ravana is burnt? 

As Anand Neelakantan explains in his best selling book Asura, which is one of the texts that does justice to the wrongly understood character of Ravana (atleast in northern region of India), the ten headed demon showed his true character, each head a symbolic of one, and the :dashamukha" of the fact that he wasn't the one to hide his true self out of shame but express himself clearly, or what we call in a word as - straightforward. His true nature of feeling lust, greed, anger etc. all the emotions that all of us as humans feel and express only to a more or less extent was visible to all, a symbolic representation being the ten heads. 

While he did lay his eyes on Sita, abducted her, he never touched her or violated her in any way. He waited for her to love him for his valor instead of imposing himself on her. Now abducting her is wrong but what Rama did to her was any better? Think if in a parallel universe Sita did accept him for all his efforts, would her life not be better than being with a man who wouldn't even trust her enough to be with her for the rest of his life?  Also later on like a weak man just take away her sons and she being no longer capable of forgiving him, or his insult to her love and devotion; just leave her mortal form? I think with Ravana she would have been happy ever after. She would have been the recipient of all the love and respect from him. Call him dark for he kidnapped her, true; but why worship the man who abandoned her? Why burn only the man who fought till his last breath for her, keeping at stake all he earned with so much pain all his life and worship the one who was the reason wanted to be free of her mortal existence?

So basically both Rama and Ravana are shades of grey, in short-human. It is therefore injustice to make a man so learned and straight forward a symbol of "evil" while we choose to worship another. Its like adding a label, a wrong one, which when done to us, we hate it. If you wish to burn something as the marker of good against evil, Rama was not all white either. If we worship him, we should at least learnt to respect the goodness in other.

May be a more patriarchal world story was what you grew up with, but its time to open your eyes and think deeply what your actions stand for. A goddess suffered at the hands of the very man we have built temples for. A hope that someday we would not embrace people blindly but the goodness in them. Next time just burn the grey in you and try to make to make it white at no one's cost. 


  1. Don't you think it's silly -- risking everything for a woman?

    1. That is personal choice. But it's better than leaving a woman who is devoted to you just for a stupid doubt and certainly doesn't deserve what is done to him.

  2. Somewhat convincing... Nicely written.. I do feel the same. (Y)

  3. My views after going into the depths to some extent of mythology, analyzing the characters and finding the reason of morality constructs prevalent at that time in the society, i reached to the point that at that time it was belief that WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND....... or Karmo Ka Fal Milta H.....
    Ram was Maryadapurushottam.The ideal son who readily went to the forest for 14 years to fulfill a promise made by his father to his step mother.A loving husband who pledged that he will never take another wife.A doting brother and a brave fighter.
    Then, what made him leave his wife, that too after the purity certification by Lord Agni? The same reason due to which Krishna who slayed a five headed snake-demon and lifted a mountain on his fingure in his childhood, gets killed by an arrow shot in his toe. The cycle of karma indeed.Sita was cursed by a bird whom she caged even after her mate fled that she would be separated from her husband.The pair of birds in their next life were the washerman and washerwoman upon whose speculations Sita was exiled.Ram on the other hand was similarly cursed by Tara, the wife of Bali- the Vanara King who was deceitfully killed by Ram, that he would loose Sita soon after he regains her.Bali in his nextlife was the hunter who fired the fatal arrow at Krishna (Ram's next birth) as described above.
    Like Mahabharata, Ramayana too is shaped by Karma whose results followed you till several lives and not even Gods were able to escape the misfortunes bought by sins they committed in their present or previous births.From the birth of Ram and Ravana to the unfortunate death of almost every character in Mahabharata, each event though how much immoral or unnatural it might seem has a reason - a curse (most of the times!) or a blessing, in nutshell the Result of their Actions.
    Now coming to the question of White and Black, in Hinduism no God is perfect, if you judge them by present ethical standards.Lord Krishna had 16,008 wives,Lord Shiva favored opium, Lord Vishnu tricked demons as Mohini for elixir.The reasons again trace back to Karma and Dharma(action and duty).The conclusions drawn should not be the actions but the intent and purposes behind them.The moral of the story should be chosen according to what is relevant and relative in the contemporary world.

    1. First of all thank you for reading the article, pondering over it thoroughly and putting your views here for all of us. Considering your point of view on the story and karmic connections in individuality, can be considered as one way to interpret the outcomes of the story. However, what I am trying to point out here is that if everyone was bad, did bad and got what they deserved, why do we portray /symbolize one man as demon and the other as god. Whereas both of them are not perfect, neither their lives, nor their actions. If we worship one, we should worship another; and if we demonize one after all those years and him receiving the returns of his karma, we should do the same to the other. Both in the end were learned men and both did injustice to a woman.

    2. I think intentions behind the actions matters a lot......