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lakshmi chandrt apeyd w himavn w himam tyajet

atyt sgaro velm na pratjnmaham pitu
Beauty may leave the moon. Snow peaks may become bereft of snow.
The ocean may transgress its shores.
But I will never violate the vow made by me to my father.
Valmiki Ramayana

Mythology is an integral part of religion.

It is as necessary for religion and national culture as the skin and the
skeleton that preserve a fruit with its juice and its taste.
Form is no less essential than substance.
C. Rajagopalachari

8, 2

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Year 8, No. 2

|, 1423

Editorial Team :
Malabika Majumdar, Maitrayee Sen,
Ajanta Dutt, Nandan Dasgupta

July, 2016

E-46, Greater Kailash-I,

New Delhi-110048

ISSN 0976-0989

^ S
-630, M? , ~-110019

Nandalal Bose
K.G. Subramanyan
Chittaranjan Pakrashi
Jyotirmoy Ray
Photo Credits:
Alokparna Das
Front & Back Inside Cover:
Jyotirmoy Ray
Back Cover:
Nandalal Bose


Guest Editorial - Susmita Dasgupta


Maitrayee Sen


Jayanta Sen


Ajanta Dutt
Nandan Dasgupta
Nishtha Gautam
Susmita Dasgupta
Subhadra Sen Gupta
Niraj Kumar Sinha
Alokparna Das

- S A
S / Letters to Editors


[ i ]
- Riddles in Hinduism (Ambedkar)
Book Review - Shri Gita 'Rasa Ratnakar'

Special Issue Ramayana

The Scientific History of the
Indo-European People
Abducting Epic Heroines
Too Many Ramayanas?
The Invisible Family of Ram
King, Hero and the Divine Incarnate
Ram, Ravan and Us
The Blue Prince
The Human Face of Ravan


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The Last Word

Narayani Gupta
Read : http://www.scribd.com/collections/3537598/Hindol
Give : Make your cheques to Ohetuk Sabha
Call : 98110-24547

t is possible that when the Ramayana was first composed as

an epic, many folklores and morality tales circulating in the
societies of the times found their way into the text. The
Ramayana composed by Valmiki appears to be an aggregation
and accumulation of a range of stories ordinarily constituting
the folk culture. But what is of greater importance is the fact
that the Ramayana has been retold and reinterpreted in
hundreds if not thousands of ways.
Many communities which perform episodes from the
Ramayana for religious festivals often interpret and retell the
epic anew with each performance. These variations challenge
the image of Ram as the ideal person, Sitas fire ordeal being
the prime among them, and his assassination of Bali being yet
another spot on his infallible persona. Indeed, the entire Uttar
Ramayana, the most endearing part of the epic is a later addition
to the body of the epic and is entirely dedicated to the
sufferings of Sita, Lakshman, and others close to Ram,
precisely due to the decisions that the hero takes with the
intent of being a fair and a just king. Michael Madhusudan
Dutta the Renaissance Bengali poet completely dissolved the
ideals in Rams image and presented Ravana as the good,
the one who the epic and its retellings represent as the
personification of dark forces.
If Ram is supposed to emerge as the ideal human being

|, 1423

then why did the authors in the various versions not delete the
portions that show him in bad light? Why was Sitas fire ordeal
never expunged? Tulsidas weaves the fantastic story of Sita
being kept in Agnis custody in anticipation of Ravanas
abduction of her since Ram, by then a Divine Incarnation, must
be in the know of the future and the fire ordeal was a means to
retrieve her back; yet even Tulsidas failed in his courage to
obliterate the shameful episode of Sitas trial. Rams failures
are part of his ideal personhood precisely because Ram worked
towards the attainment of the ideal personhood. Ram is an
ideal not because he is perfect but because he seeks perfection;
he is the "purushottam" because he aspires and intends to be
one and not because he is one. This makes the Ramayana a
spiritual journey of the human soul as much as it is an epic
drama of extreme oppositions.
Not everything in the Ramayana happens ideally, but
everything that happens in the story is the search for an ideal.
It is the seeking of the ideal, the ideal values, the ideal
demeanour, the ideal behavior, the ideal of social roles that
makes the Ramayana debatable, discursive, critiqued and
reinterpreted and retold as many times as it has been. Unlike
the Mahabharata, the Ramayana is not a secular text; it varies
from having the flavor of spirituality to being outright Divine.
Despite being a religious text, the characters of the epic
have often been the butt of jokes, caricatures and through them
the script of the Ramayana has been added in dimensions.
Sukumar Ray makes the episode in which Lakshmana is fatally
wounded (and everyone waits for the potion which Hanuman
has set off to procure in the mountains that will resurrect him
to life) into a side splitting comedy. Ram may be Divine but
unlike in Buddhism, or Jainism and later for Christianity and

|, 1423

Islam, it has never been blasphemous to make fun of the
Ramayana; the Divinity of the Ramayana comes despite the
sacred frequently being turned into the profane because of
the element of devotion in our religion in which the devotee
and the Divine are constantly at play, and banter with each
Perhaps because the characters of the epic seek
perfection, they appear to be so imperfect. Then they are
imperfect because their shortcomings are intended to create
centrifugal forces which would release the potential of events
of the story and help the narrative develop. Kaikeyi becomes
crucial and so does Marich, the demon disguised as the
Golden Deer. The evil interludes are ways and means to move
the story, to make the protagonists take a wide circle, out of
the palace, across the forests, mountains and seas, amidst every
kind of species, birds, monkeys, snakes and demons and then
return to the palace, accumulating and adding experience to
contain the Universe through the journey of man.
Ram is born a prince but lives in the forest; he is worshipped
by his subjects but is made to face hostile demons all the
time; he has married the most attractive woman of his
generation and yet is compelled to abandon her. He has loyal
brothers who must die, he has valiant sons who he does not
know exist, and he is anointed as king of one of the best
kingdoms of the world but must immediately abdicate in favour
of his half-brother and proceed to his exile. Ramayana is the
story of banishment, separation, deportation and suicides, and
all of this happens to characters who are stupendously entitled
and likewise endowed. The exile brings them out from their
palaces into the wider world, to make them belong everywhere
and to everybody rather than be confined into palaces as royalty.

|, 1423

The Ramrajya of Ayodhya finally evaporates, Sita sinks into
the earth, Lakshman kills himself and Ram along with the rest
of his family and the whole of his kingdom commits mass
suicide by drowning in the Sarayu river and thus obliterates
the entire episode of Ram and his Ramrajya from the world
of the concrete. This was important for the total disappearance
from the world of fact has made the Ramayana the great fiction
that it is, universal and transcendental in time and space.
Valmikis inspiration for the Ramayana came from the
mourning of a bird for its dead mate and hence the Ramayana
he composed resonates with the sorrow and despair of
bereavement, separation and loss. Ram is a hero as well as a
hermit; the flavor of Valmiki is that of the hermitage. Ram is
a hero, a king and a householder, but at the core of his heart he
is a hermit, a sage, with deep emotional bonds but no material
attachments. In the version written by Krittibas Ojha, despite
the great feats of gallantry, the flavor of the Ramayana is not
heroic, it is that of the household. The ideal which the
Ramayana seeks is not intrepidness but of conformity and
In Tulsidas, the Ramayana becomes a Divine play, a Leela
and the many Ramayanas inspired by the Bhakti school of
thought construe the characters as metaphors of the human
body, mind and spirit in which Sita is the mind who is trapped
in the body, which is Lanka waiting to be united with the Divine,
who is Ram and also the human spirit. Ram and Ravana are
supposed to reside inside ones heart, representing the good
and the evil respectively, engaged in internal struggles of the
As an epic tale, the Ramayana is a story of life in a sharp
contrast to the Gita, or the Puranas which are stories of the

|, 1423

Divine and this is why the imperfections of the characters are
so fervently discussed over and over again so that what is
merely human aspires towards that which is Divine. This search
for the ideals, for the utopia, for nirvana, which makes the
Ramayana into the story of every one of us, of our daily
existences, our little hopes and large despairs, and more so
our search for metaphysical meanings of our mundane
existences. The many retellings of the Ramayana even as far
as the present times in the Ramlila compositions each year in
our villages and towns, the novels that are published almost
each year retelling the stories of the Ramayana, the
contemporary authors like Ashok Banker Roy and Subhadra
Sen Gupta who write volumes of Ramayana indicate that this
epic is still evolving reflecting the nuances of the Indian life
flowing over the millennia of civilization. The Ramayana is
not a has been; it is still being written much in the same
manner of humans seeking the ideal as it was when Valmiki
first composed it.

(Susmita Dasgupta)

|, 1423

[S A]

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SLetters to Editors
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Dear Editors,
I have read the copies of Hindol sent by you. Some of them are
indeed delightful, some are thought provoking and some most informative.
And, of course, interesting! Hindol is a lovely name for a magazine that
makes us feel like were sitting on a swing that takes us back in time
and brings us forward again!
I especially liked two articles one was on the life of Ananda
Gupta and the other on Sister Nivedita (Hindol, January, 2016). Reading
the one on Ananda Gupta made me depressed. My grandfather was
also a freedom fighter. His name was Mulraj Kersondas and he lived in
Bombay. He had been beaten up, jailed and his wife and child had
nowhere to go because all their possessions were confiscated as he
refused to pay tax! Having some background of that era, it is very
painful to see how the sacrifice of so many that gave us independence
has been wasted, and how the politicians have misused this freedom for
every kind of personal gain, undoing all that those amazing people gave

|, 1423

their lives for.
The article on Sister Nivedita is an eye opener and I feel great
respect for Shri Amiya Sen for his objective narration and insights. In
fact, it has been a sore point that nobody at all has seen fit to give Rani
Rashmoni her due! There is a statue of even Matangini Hazra, but none
of the subsequent Governments, or Politicians, or film producers, and
not even the Ramakrishna Mission has seen fit to acknowledge Rani
Rashmonis remarkable courage in her stand against the British or her
unflagging support of Shri Ramakrishnadev, and her gifts to the city of
I find that your July issue will be on the Ramayana. In a world
where most people are desperately seeking peace and love, where it is
hard indeed to find a role model who does not have feet of clay, it is
from our ancient books that we can derive the clarity of thought and
inner strength to stabilise and create a more compassionate and ethically
aware social order. Similarly, the Ramayana can be seen with a slightly
different outlook. Shri Rama lives in the hearts of millions as the
representative of the Supreme Power who has manifested in human
form. Rama stands for righteousness. Furthermore, Rama is a name
for the eternal, universal Absolute, just as a or x are names in algebra.
The same Godhead can be called by any other name, because as is
commonly agreed the Supreme is one. The Ramayana is, thus, to be
understood at three levels the mundane, the metaphysical and the
sublime, to avail of the full benefits of the story. The concept of an
Avatar is the descent of a higher power. There is a verse in the Gita,
Wherever you see some exceptional quality in anyone, know that it is
My power. As Swami Vivekananda said, Every human being is
potentially divine, and it is our duty to develop the divinity within us.
How much happier would our sad world be if this became the prevailing
Purnima Toolsidas


Opinions expressed in Hindol, as always, are those of the authors.

|, 1423




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Riddles in Hinduism
B.R. Ambedkar
Published posthumously
by the Maharashtra
Available at internet
Pages : 325
Price : Rs. 1500/approximately

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"But the time has come when the Hindu mind must be
freed from (the hold) which the silly ideas propagated by
the Brahmans, have on it. Without this liberation India has
no future. I have undertaken this task knowing full well
what it involves. I am not afraid of the consequences.
I shall be happy if I succeed in stirring the masses."
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|, 1423

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been made the exponent of the Chaturvarna with the Brahmins as
the Lord of all? [ 31]

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There is no heaven, no final liberation, nor any soul in
another world: Nor do the actions of the four castes,
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The question of all questions is what made the Brahmins
degrade the Vedas and supersede them by Smritis, Puranas

|, 1423



and the Tantras if they regarded their Vedas as the most

sacred? [ 58]

That the system of thought embodied in the Upanishads

is repugnant to that of the Vedas is beyond doubt.

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is incompatible with work. [ 67]

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made God [ 98]

|, 1423

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How can such cowardly Gods have any prowess? If
they had none, how can they give it to their wives. To
say that Goddesses must be worshipped because they
have Sakti is not merely a riddle but an absurdity. It
requires explanation why this doctrine of Sakti was
invented. Was it to put a new commodity on the market
that the Brahmins started the worship of the Goddesses
and degraded the Gods? [ 109]

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The Shudras and householders can only be householders
according to the scheme of Manu. Why can they not be
Brahmachari, Vanaprasthi or Sannyasi? What harm can
there be either to them or to society if the Ashram
Dharma was open to them? [ 247]

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|, 1423



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The Hindu social system is undemocratic not by accident. It is designed to be undemocratic. Its division of
society into varnas, and castes, and of castes and outcasts are not theories but are decrees. They are all
barricades raised against democracy. [ 270]

of Caste"
Riddles in Hinduism
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1956- 14 " e
I was born as a Hindu, but I will not die as one

An annotated version of this
book was published in April
2016 by Navayana, 155
Shahpur Jat, New Delhi 49
on the occasion of the 125th
birth anniversary of Dr.
Ambedkar. It carries an
extensive introduction by
Kancha Ilaiah. It is listed at
Rs. 295/- and is available on

|, 1423


Shri Gita Rasa Ratnakar

Swami Akhandanand Saraswati
Translated by: Purnima Toolsidas
Enquiries: Deepa Singhal, 9810068162
Pages: 675
Size: 2822 cms.

Rooted in Eternity
Maitrayee Sen, Delhi

The Bhagawad Gita has been called the glory of Sanksrit literature.
It has also been referred to as the brightest jewel of the Mahabharata,
that has been shining forth like a steady beacon of light and knowledge
down the ages, spreading its lustre far and wide, dispelling darkness (of
ignorance), rejuvenating and inspiring countless people.
The Bhagawad Gita was translated for the first time into English by
Charles Wilkins in 1785. Indeed, the first translation of any Sanskrit
work into English was that of The Gita. Since then innumerable
translations have been made of this great poem into English down the
years, and as is only too well-known, into many other languages as
This immortal poem is believed to have been composed about 3000
years ago, and yet what is remarkable is that, not only is it still revered
in the same manner, to this day it continues to be rendered into other
languages by different individuals, to be discussed, commented upon,
and annotated anew. Indeed the roots of the Gita are in eternity. Such is

|, 1423


Shri Gita Rasa Ratnakar

the unique vitality of this great classic that it can still lend itself to further
research and application of the mind by the greatest of the worlds
intellectuals and philosophers.
Dr S. Radhakrishnans translation of the Bhagawad Gita is
considered a classic in this field. In his preface to this book he has said
in this connection,
The commentators speak to us from experience, and express in a new
form, a form relevant to their age and responsive to its needs, the ancient
wisdom of the scripture, All great doctrine, as it is repeated in the course
of centuries, is coloured by the reflections of the age in which it appears
and bears the imprint of the individual who restates it. Such a restatement
of the truths of eternity in the accents of our time is the only way in which
a great scripture can be of living value to mankind.

Herein lies the importance of new commentaries of the Gita.

* * *
Hindol feels honoured to be requested to review the recent
translation by Ms Purnima Toolsidas of a commentary of the Gita called
Shri Gita Rasa Ratnakar by her Guru Swami Akhandanand Saraswati,
a man of vast learning, a saint of a very high order and founder of the
Anand Vrindavan Ashram of Vrindavan.
The Times Literary Supplement once wrote,
The task of translating such a work (e.g. the Gita) is indeed formidable.
To hope for success in it the translator must at least possess three qualities.
He must be an artist in words as well as a Sanskrit scholar, and, above
all, perhaps, he must be deeply sympathetic with the spirit of the original.

Ms Toolsidas seems to possess all these qualities.

Around the early seventies of the last century Swami Dharmananda
Saraswati, head of Paramarth Ashram, Haridwar, organised a twentyone day discourse upon the Bhagawad Gita and asked Swami
Akhandanand-ji to give an in-depth commentary on it. Swamiji spoke
daily for two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening.
Thousands of mahatmas thronged to listen to him. These pravachans
or discourses in Hindi were recorded, then edited and finally published
in the form of a book, Shri Gita Rasa Ratnakar, a title very appropriate
because it is indeed a boundless ocean, filled with precious gems.
This is the book that Ms Toolsidas has translated into English in
order to make it available to all those who are unable to read the original.
She writes about her Guru,

|, 1423

Shri Gita Rasa Ratnakar

His vast learning, his magnanimous and truly catholic outlook of the
eternal spiritual philosophy- commonly known as the Sanatan Dharma
brought deep satisfaction, peace and proactive goodwill, along with an
acute desire to reach out to others like myself, who seek to enrich their
lives, live ethically, and create an harmonious environment.

Shri Gita Rasa Ratnakar is much more than a word for word or
shloka by shloka explanation of the Gita. Narrated in a most comfortable
conversational style, it very often includes personal experiences, touching
our present day complexities, interpreting the eternal message of the
Gita in a way that can be understood by both the rustic and the
learned and in a manner that every individual feels that it applies
personally to him.
If Ms Toolsidass task of translating this book, as mentioned earlier,
was formidable, it is surely even more formidable to try to comment on
it. One can merely say that her mastery over English as well as the
language in which the pravachans or discourses were originally delivered
and her insight into the subject make reading it a pleasure and a vastly
enriching experience. Such an effort reminds one once again how, inspite
of the unimaginable advance in the fields of science and technology
today, the message of the Gita, though written thousands of years ago,
remains eternal and universal, and even today can bring us solace in
our hour of adversity and show light in our hour of darkness. Rather
than being merely a religious scripture, it can be said to be a song of
celebration of life, of wakefulness, of an intensely exciting and
intoxicating struggle that is another word for life. Its message is one do your duty to the best of your ability, and you can achieve selfrealisation, the ultimate goal of every individual soul. In the words of
Eknath Eashwaran, a recent translator / commentator of the Gita,
It asks and answers the questions that you and I might ask - questions
not about philosophy or mysticism, but about how to live effectively in a
world of challenge and change.

In Shri Gita Rasa Ratnakar, Swami Akhandanand-ji has dealt with

these questions and answers between Sri Krishna and his sakha Arjun,
who have been referred to by a commentator as the soul of man,
and the charioteer of the soul, in a unique and most interesting
manner. He has talked about the highest philosophies of the Gita, referred
often to the Vedas and the Upanishads, quoted liberally from Kabir,
Tulsidas and other saints but at the same time, has also taken innumerable

|, 1423



Shri Gita Rasa Ratnakar

examples from every day life, and steadily maintained a connect with
the ordinary person - a person whose knowledge and understanding of
the Gita may be extremely limited, who may have indeed held the Gita
reverentially at a distance all his life, but would be keen to understand
what it is that has kept this great poem immortal and perhaps the single
most significant symbol of our culture and philosophy.
Swamiji has gone to remarkable lengths in order to get across to
this common man. When dealing with a book of nearly 700 pages one
can at best give only a few examples to illustrate this. But before doing
so I would like to mention one rather interesting point that struck me at
the very beginning of the book, namely the meaning of the name
Dhritarashtra, something that is perhaps not often found in other
commentaries of the Gita. Dhritarashtra as we know, is one of the key
figures in the chain of events that culminated in the battle of Kurushetra,
which is the background of the Gita. Swami Akhandananda says,
Vyasji gave him the name after considerable consideration. The kingdom
will be Pandus - and his sons the Pandavas will get it ultimately. But
Dhritarashtra will try to grab it, not allow it to be given, holding it tightly
in his fist, and that is why his name is Dhritarashtra. Dhritasrashtra
means the one who is attached to the illusory world.

When we remember that detachment towards all worldly

possessions and giving up egocentricity are two of the main concepts of
the Gita, this presents an interesting perspective.
In his discourses Swamiji does not usually give an exact translation
of each shloka, but goes directly into explaining what the words imply in
the context of life, through anecdotes and with a lot of love and humour.
To give an example of his style, in Ch. 2, in one of the most-quoted
passages in the Gita, Sri Krishna tells Arjun krodhd bhavati samoha
samoht smritvibhraa
smritirbhramsd buddhino
buddhinst praayati
Dr. S. Radhakrishnan has translated this passage as From anger
arises bewilderment, from bewilderment loss of memory; and from
loss of memory the destruction of intelligence and from destruction
of intelligence he perishes.
Swami Akhandanand-ji, in a lengthy discussion of this says, among
other things,

|, 1423

Shri Gita Rasa Ratnakar

The happiness in our heart is burnt to ashes when there is any obstruction
in the work we want to do. Anger is the name of the blockage which
prevents the stream of happiness from flowing freely in our heart. What
happens when we get angry? - Anger causes confusion; Disciples grunt
rudely at their gurus, and sons give impertinent answers to their fathers;
Anger is a tendency which burns. It causes confusion, which results in a
person forgetting basic decorum. We forget where our duty lies, and our
buddhi - our ability for right thinking - is destroyed; then we are destroyed

Is this perhaps what Dr. Radhakrishnan had referred to, as

mentioned earlier, as "the truths of eternity in the accents of our
One realizes again and again that the Gita, rather than recommending
asceticism, as many think, is more a matter of training the body, mind,
and senses. And as one reads Ms Toolsidass translation of the Gita
Rasa Ratnakar, one realizes how her guru, through his words, and then
she, with her translation of these words, have made available the priceless
message of the Gita to a vast number of people - commoners,
householders, monks, thinkers, even sadhaks.
Discussing the beautiful last shloka
yatra yogsvara Krishna
yatra prtho dhanurdharah
tatra srr vijayo bhutir
dhruv ntir matir mama
Swami Akhandanand-ji sums up the essence of the Gita in his inimitable
style Shri or Laxmi (grace, beauty, prosperity) is there where these two Yogeswara Sri Krishna and Dhanurdhar Arjun are. There is the fragrance
of the earth, the sweetness of water, soft touch of the breeze and the allencompassing space. The love of the heart manifests there and the intellects
ability to grasp the truth is there. Victory is there - nobody can subdue this

In her introduction Ms. Toolsidas says, This book is offered to

whoever has a thirst for inner peace and wants to lead a fruitful
life. Surely that embraces the larger part of humanity! She has gone
through this venerable work of her Guru deeply and lovingly and
extracted its essence, then rendered it to another language with great
lucidity. We are sure people will be delighted to read this work of love
and veneration and benefit from its practical, universal and timeless

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Shri Gita Rasa Ratnakar

Below are some of the reflections of Ms. Toolsidas, which show how she is
deeply sympathetic with the spirit of the original.
- Editors

As a happily married young woman, with two lovely

children and every conceivable blessing in life, I would feel a
bit guilty when I saw the enormous suffering in the world.
People would laugh at me, whenever I spoke of these feelings,
telling me that I was a fool! They said I should just be grateful
for the gifts of fortune, and stop bothering my head about things
beyond my control. Their comments did not give any
satisfaction. Nor did Julie Andrews song, I must have done
something good, even though the law of Karma did seem
My Guruji, Swami Akhandanand Saraswati, smiled when
I placed the matter to him. He ruffled my hair lovingly, and
said, What will you have, except a heart full of sorrow, if you
gather the sorrow of the world into it? And what else can you
spread, apart from sorrow if you have nothing but sorrow in
your heart? Be happy, my child, and spread happiness!
This is a magic formula. You can try it and see! The more I
tried to spread happiness, the happier I became. My focus was
on (spreading) joy. The suffering I saw served to prompt me
into using my time and energy proactively. Seeing others laugh
made me joyful. My feeling of helplessness turned into
moderated optimism. Instead of gloom, I began to spread cheer.
This had a visibly beneficial effect on me and others around
me. Every being is attracted to happy people. My relations with
others improved, and I felt less bothered about the petty things
which had earlier seemed so hurtful.
It is a fact that there are people who resent the happiness
of others. I couldnt help noticing this, and it confused me and
troubled me. It was from Shri Krishnashankar Shastriji that I
came across another magic formula. Dont expect anything for
what you do. Do what you feel you should do, without expecting
any return. If you cannot get free of expectations, refuse to do the
work. All problems arise because of our expectations. It took me a

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Shri Gita Rasa Ratnakar

long time, and a great deal of resolution, and considerable

struggle with myself, before I could begin to practice it. At first,
I had to hide my disappointment (when I felt let down by
people). I had to pretend, even to myself, that I was not hurt.
Gradually, this pretense became the truth, and I started to
understand the importance of prayer.
Belief in God went out of fashion with the advance in
science. Even today, when so many scientists are of the opinion
that some logical power has to be behind the extraordinarily
complicated and accurate mechanism of the cosmos, the
majority still shy away from admitting the possibility of a Higher
Power . They dont mind calling it the X factor , but get
inordinately passionate in their objections, if the word God is
mentioned anywhere. It is hilariously illogical that the very
people for whom an open mind is of vital importance in their
search for Truth should have such closed minds.
The behavior of every individual is in keeping with his/her level
of knowledge. It takes some digesting, but as one begins to
understand the implications it becomes so much easier to
understand why people react so differently, even in almost
identical situations. Knowledge is connected to wisdom, and
also to restraint. If we have the knowledge that it is wrong to
hit people when we are angry, we will try to control ourselves;
but if we believe that it is right to hit someone who irritates us,
we will not hesitate to hit anyone we feel angry with! Also, we
lose most of our anger/hurt/indignation, as soon as we come
to understand that the other person was driven willy-nilly into
behaving in a way we found hurtful. We dont get angry with
the sea when a wave knocks us over; nor do we get angry with
our little child who hits out when we hold his hands, because
he needs to be given an injection. In the same way, we find it
much easier to forgive others if we know that they were also
victims of their own lack of a proper understanding or self
You have been given a human birth, so use it for doing something
good in the world. Even dogs and cats feed themselves; unless
you do something more worthwhile than looking after yourself

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Shri Gita Rasa Ratnakar

(and those you consider yours), your potential remains

unfulfilled. My focus shifted from my own petty problems to
the far greater genuine suffering in the world. I became
proactive and grateful for what I had. God alone knows how
much my efforts helped others; but I know very well that I
derived the maximum benefits in trying to help others!
Good acts are needed to create good subtle impressions on the
sub-conscious. This explains why ritualism is recommended,
popular, and effective. It is quite true that we are more
committed to something for which we have put in some effort,
or made some sacrifice. A mother, who has stayed up night
after night with her sick baby, will have a greater depth of love
for her child than the mother of a baby who has been brought
up by someone else. God seems quite remote when we merely
picture Him in some unseen realm; but those who worship an
image, idol, or any other symbol (like a cross one can hold, or a
book one can read), are far more likely to experience Him as a
tangible reality. To them, He does not seem as inaccessible as
He seems to most of us. We will definitely have a greater
empathy for a beggar if we give one some food or clothing
occasionally, than if we do nothing but grumble that begging
should not be permitted.
A short and sweet, simple story told by Maharaj Shri will
appeal to whoever reads this book. Maharaj Shri said that
when this beautiful world was created, and the Jeeva was sent
to it for a sojourn, he asked the Lord, Lord, You have made
the world so beautiful that I am afraid that I may forget You
once I go there. Dont worry, My child, said the Lord. I have
added, in the substance of your mind, an ingredient called
dukha (sorrow). It will always remain with you, until you come
back to Me. I placed it there to ensure that you return to Me
ultimately. So, when dukha comes into your life, dont regret
it; remember that it is a reminder from that Almighty, and be
grateful that you have been reminded that He is your goal,
and all else is transient, said Maharaj Shri. Sorrow has
thus become a reassuring reminder to me of His Grace since

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|, 1423

Tear here


Jayanta Sen

The Scientific History of the

Indo-European People

Many thousand years ago a group of men (from either the Indian
subcontinent or its western neighboring areas), sometimes accompanied
by their women, began a series of migrations and invasions that stretched
from the western edge of Europe to the eastern edge of India. They
left little written records, but did leave behind language, religion and
culture. With the discovery of DNA in the 20th century we now know
that they are the majority of male ancestors of both male and female
populations of most European countries and many Indian communities.
As there are few written records we have limited knowledge of
Indian history older than a millennium. The same is true for history of all
mankind. It is natural for us to wonder where we came from and who
our ancestors were. Traditional history has only been able to provide us
uncertain information dating back to at most a few thousand years, but
science now provides us unambiguous facts about the origins of
populations dating back to hundreds of thousands of years.
Most scientists believe that modern humans originated in East Africa
about 150 to 200 kya (kilo (thousand) years ago), and significant
migrations out of Africa took place starting around 50 kya. These
migrants dispersed across the globe, and went through long periods of
relative isolation where the endogamous populations developed different
characteristics including languages, religions and genetic signatures. The
fact that populations went through long periods of isolation and endogamy
is evident from the fact that their matrilineage and patrilineage

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Indo-European People

percentages can be genetically differentiated.

Over the last few hundred years, from the work of comparative
linguists we know many Indian and European languages originated from
a common language now called Proto-Indo-European (PIE). It is also
hypothesized that there was a Proto-Indo-European religion due to
similarities among the deities, religious practices and mythologies of
ancient religions of the Indo-European (IE) speaking people. However,
language and religion may also spread by diffusion, and their similarity
only suggests but does not prove that modern day IEs share common
recent ancestors.
The Genetic Theory
Suppose there was a giant register of names that stretched back
hundreds of thousands of years. Suppose to a mother Sib the sisters
Apa and Kha were born, and in the register they were noted as:
Apa, daughter of Sib
Kha, daughter of Sib
And suppose to Apa were born the sisters Sha, Pia and Tun, and to
Kha were born the sisters Mou, and Sar. These would be noted in the
register as:
Sha, daughter of Apa, daughter of Sib
Pia, daughter of Apa, daughter of Sib
Tun, daughter of Apa, daughter of Sib
Mou, daughter of Kha, daughter of Sib
Sar, daughter of Kha, daughter of Sib
And so on for every subsequent generation the names would be
recorded. If after 5 generations, the descendants of Sib had an average
(geometric) of two daughters, then there would be 32 (that is 2 to the
power 5) entries in the register each of which would have daughter of
Sib at the end. These 32 women could look up the names in the register
and know that they had the same matrilineal great, great grandmother.
Similarly for men, a similar register would list names as Jay, son of Nir,
son of Sur etc. And the group of men who had the entry son of Sur
would know that they shared the same patrilineal male ancestor.
Science tells us that these two registers of matrilineage and
patrilineage actually exist in nature, in our DNA to be precise. Whereas
written texts and archaeology can let us look into the past that is a few

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Indo-European People

thousand years old, the power of DNA analysis is that it enables us to

look back into the history of populations and population movements
many tens of thousands years ago. Victors may attempt to write or
even re-write history, but DNA does not lie. A mutation in the Ychromosome will be passed on from father to son, thus enabling us to
trace patrilineage. Similarly a mutation in mtDNA will be passed on
from mother to daughter (and also to sons) enabling us to trace
matrilineage. The group of people (men or women) who share a
matrilineal or a patrilineal ancestor are said to belong to the same
The Percentage of Ancestors of Modern Populations
Matrilineage and patrilineage can be identified by DNA, but what
does it mean in terms of ancestry (both male and female). Suppose we
find that Indians are 80% mtDNA haplogroup (matrilineage) M and
55% Y-haplogroup (patrilineage) R. Then it implies that probabilistically
80% x 0.5 = 40% of our ancestors came from the ancient population
where the mutation identifying the M haplogroup arose, and 55% x 0.5
= 27.5% of our ancestors came from the ancient population where the
mutation identifying the R haplogroup arose. The remaining 32.5% of
our ancestors came from other ancient populations.
Studies of DNA show that the matrilineage of the majority of nonAfricans belong to the matrilineal haplogroups M and N. M is ubiquitous
in India and covers more than 70 per cent of the Indian matrilineal
lineages. It is also the single most common mtDNA haplogroup in Asia,
it represents on average about 70% Japanese and Tibetian, 60% of
Korean and 50% of Chinese maternal lineages.
Y-chromosome haplogroups inform us of our patrilineal ancestors,
and for Indians the most frequent are H, L, O and R. H is most common
among southern communities, L among communities of southern,
western, and northwestern regions (and among Sindhis), O among
eastern and north-eastern communities (it is also the dominant haplogroup
of the Han Chinese), and R among all Indian speakers of the IE
The presence of large percentages of the haplogroup R in populations
is highly correlated with the modern prevalence of IE languages. No
population with a haplogroup R percentage greater than 25% speaks a

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Indo-European People

language that is not an IE language (with the minor exceptions of

Hungarian and some Cameroonian communities). And few populations
that speak IE languages but have percentages of R less than 25% are
proximate to other populations with R percentage greater than 25%.
The scientific evidence is that the IE languages arose in a population
from the Indian subcontinent or Iran that was marked by the R or R1
haplogroup, and the men of this population carried their language and
religion over South Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
The descendants of haplogroup R are R1 (found mainly among European
and Indian populations) and R2 (found mostly in India). The descendants
of R1 are R1a and R1b. R1a is the eastern branch, and is found relatively
more frequently in Eastern Europe, Iran, Armenia and India. R1b is the
western branch and is occurs more frequently in Western Europe.
The Genetic Evidence of Conquests and Migrations
Our knowledge of human history based on archeological artifacts
and written history stretches back to a few thousand years. Also, such
evidence is often ambiguous and inferences made rather unscientific.
For example, the idea that Indo-Europeans originated somewhere in
Central Asia seems to based on the fact that geographically Central
Asia lies somewhere in the middle of India and Europe. It is a thesis
that looks rather appealing when one views a map, but lacks scientific
basis. The DNA analysis of populations now enables us to look back
much further into movements of populations, whether by conquests or
Although not yet settled by consensus, the most recent female
ancestor of all humans lived about 100 to 200 kya (thousand years ago),
and the most recent male ancestor of all humans lived about 200 to 350
kya, both somewhere in Africa. 90 to 130 kya, humans migrated out of
Africa, likely in a single migration that populated the rest of the world.
The single migration inference is based on the fact that there exists
outside Africa only the single mtDNA haplogroup L3.
From the migrants, different populations were derived, which went
through periods of endogamy and mixing. About 50 kya there existed in
India a population, who I will call the Saurs (from Saurashtra, the
hypothesized geographical location) from which arose the male ancestors
of 90% of the current non-African world population. The male patrilineal

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Indo-European People

ancestry from this population in modern populations is Y haplogroup F.

The descendants of the Saurs are the Berengians (haplogroup Q),
Chinese (haplogroup O), the Dravidians (haplogroup H), the Finno
(haplogroup N), the Indo-Europeans (haplogroup R), the Nordics
(haplogroup I), the Semites (haplogroup J), and Neolithic Europeans
(haplogroup G).
The expansion of the Saurs occurred in different directions, and the
following are based on suggestive scientific evidence from modern
population haplogroup percentages rather than being definitive scientific
evidence. Given that mtDNA haplogroups are geographically stable, it
appears it were the Saur men who displaced men of existing populations
and had children with the local women. The first to leave were possibly
the Neolithic Europeans, who went west and spread over Central Asia
and Europe. The Dravidians expanded all over India. The SemiticNordics went west. While the Semitics branched off towards southwest
Asia and the Arabic peninsula, the Nordics ended up in far to the north
and west in Scandinavia. The Chinese-Finns seem to have traveled
East through India and then North, leaving behind the male ancestors of
some Indian tribals (or was it a backflow of haplogroup O to India?).
The Finns continued westwards and settled in eastern Scandinavia.
The Berengians who colonized Americas before the Europeans were
thought to be related to East Asians because of their interlude in Beringia.
However, the genetic evidence reveals both the Berengians and IndoEuropeans belong to haplogroup P (which is itself a descendant of F),
and hence share closer male ancestry compared to other Saurs. Finally,
the Indo-Europeans proved to be very successful in expansions, spreading
all over India and Europe. In fact, the genetic profile of modern Europe,
especially central, east and west Europe, is defined by a high percentage
of Indo-Europeans.
Some Conclusions about the Origins and Ancestry of Indians
At this point, some conclusions about the ancestry of Indians may
be drawn from the DNA evidence.
1) The two most common patrilineal ancestries of Indians are
haplogroup H (Dravidian) and haplogroups R1 (Indo-European). It is
important to note that most communities show significant percentages
of both these ancestries, implying that during Indias history of many

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Indo-European People

thousand years these communities have not remained endogamous.

2) Though the Indian IE upper castes show a greater frequency of
R (specifically R1), the notion that their ancestors invaded India and
conquered the natives whose descendants are the lower castes is not
proven. Rather about half the male patrilineal ancestry of the Indian
upper castes is R1, and the remaining split mainly between H, J and R2.
Similarly the IE speaking lower castes have a significant R1 ancestry.
So, while these communities do show differences in ancestry (with
some upper and middle castes showing large percentages of R1a), the
fact is that much of their male ancestry is shared.
3) The speakers of the IE languages (both men and women) have
a common proximate male ancestry. The IE languages and religions did
not spread by diffusion, rather they were spread by colonizers and
invaders who in all likelihood originated from India or Iran as an
endogamous community.
4) Some other interesting historical facts emerge from population
genetics. Who are the closest relatives? Start by noting that almost all
Indian patrilineal ancestry belongs to the macrohaplogroup F, from which
descended the Old Europeans/Asians (G), Dravidians (H), Scandinavians
(I), Semites (J), Finns (N), Chinese (O), Native Americans (Q) and
Indo-Europeans (R1). Digging one level deeper, for Indians the largest
shared ancestry with foreigners is with Indo-Europeans in other
continents (mostly Europe, the Americas, and Australia), and substantial
shared ancestry with Semites (distributed throughout India) and Chinese
(mainly eastern India). Populations of world who do not belong to the
macrohaplogroup F, namely Africans (B and E), and the Japanese/
Tibetans (D) have more distant patrilineal ancestry to Indians. These
relations are only approximations, for example natives of the Andaman
Islands belong to haplogroup D, and thus share proximate patrilineal
ancestry with Japanese/Tibetans.
The author can be reached at sen.jayanta@gmail.com

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Ajanta Dutt

Abducting Epic Heroines

The similarities between the Greek and Indian epics suggest there
must have been some kind of interaction among the people of the ancient
civilizations. Perhaps there were trade routes along which traders and
storytellers travelled, along with their items for buying and selling.
Perhaps in the evenings when the trade of the day was over, these
ancient forefathers would settle down around camp-fires and tell tales
of old legends and myths that had been passed down through oral
exchange for generations in their own cultures. Thus at these crossroads
of civilization, the thoughts of new adventures were born, when kings
ruled vast lands, and kingdoms rose and fell prompted by the actions of
the Gods.
Of the four major epics hailing from Greece and India, three describe
major wars that stem from the molestation or abduction of women.
Draupadis ignominy in the Kaurava court is a root cause for the
Kurukshetra War. The War in the Ramayana happens because of the
abduction of Sita by Ravana, and the Trojan War starts because Helen
is abducted by Paris. Unlike the case of Sita, it is still a matter to be
debated whether Helen was forcibly taken away by Paris or whether
she went of her own free will.
Helens was the face that launched a thousand ships wrote
Christopher Marlowe who extolled her beauty as did other poets of the
Western canon. In fact Yeats not only uses it as a comparison in his
poem No Second Troy, but also refers to Helens birth in Leda and
the Swan. The myth says that Zeus (who is very much like our God

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Abducting Epic Heroines

Indra) assumed the disguise of a swan and swooped down on Leda,

Spartas Queen and wife of Tyndareus, when she was walking alone in
the garden. Apparently on the same night, she was impregnated by her
husband so that three eggs were born from these dual unions. One was
gold, the other silverand the third was lead which incidentally did not
hatch. Of the first two eggs, two pairs of twins were born, each a
brother and sister pair - Helen and Polydeuces (or Pollux), and
Clytemnestra and Castor. The two boys grew up inseparable and were
called the Dioscuri. The two girls became the wives of two brothers,
Agamemnon and Menelaus but it was foretold that they would bring
great disaster to the human race.
Helen was a heavenly being but technically the adopted daughter
of the King of Sparta. She was outstandingly beautiful and even as she
was entering her early teens, she was abducted by King Theseus of
Attica who kept her captive under the protection of his mother until she
was rescued by her brothers, the Dioscuri. She apparently had a child
called Iphigenia who was then given to Clytemnestra to be brought up
as the latters own daughter. Thus Helen was able to maintain her own
virgin status and she became the prize many a Greek warrior sought
when she came of age. At what was the Greek equivalent of a
Swayamvar, Tyndareus gave her hand in marriage to Menelaus upon
the advice of Odysseus. The pact made was that all the warriors would
come to the help of Menelaus in times of need as a pledging of their
troth to Helen, the worlds most beautiful woman. Her sister
Clytemnestra became the wife of Agamemnon and her cousin Penelope
became the wife of Odysseus.
It is strange that the King should have been so concerned with the
fate of the daughter who was not his rather than his own child. But both
sisters were children of violence, especially Helen, as the rape of Leda
was going to have far-reaching consequences on the lives of those in
the Grecian city states and in Troy.
Another story regarding the birth of Helen is that Nemesis, the
goddess of destiny and revenge was raped by Zeus when they were
both in the form of birds. Thus the two eggs born were taken to Leda
and she looked after the infants who emerged from them. In an aside,
we may also remember that disguises were the norms of the Gods and
even Brahma came down to Saraswati in the garb of a swan.

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Abducting Epic Heroines

Sitas story from the Ramayana reads in a similar fashion. She

was found in a furrow by King Janak. He adopted her and made her his
beloved daughter. He too was concerned about her marriage and
prepared the test of the bow to bestow her hand upon the most valiant
prince, Rama. Sitas sister Urmila wedded Lakshmana, and her two
cousins were married off to Ramas other brothers. This is almost an
exact parallel to the story of the Spartan princesses.
There are a number of stories regarding the birth of Sita. Like
Helen, she too can be considered divine. One of the stories is that
Vedavati, daughter of the sage Kushadwaja, immolates herself because
Ravan is pursuing her. She is born as the daughter of Earth-goddess,
Prithvi who gifts this little baby to King Janak. Another story says that
Padma, daughter of King Padmaksha had many suitors wanting to marry
her, and Ravana too was pursuing her. She tries to get away from them
by immolating herself. When Ravana arrives there, he finds that the
fire has burnt itself out and left behind five sparkling diamonds. He puts
these in a casket and gifts them to his wife, Mandodari. When she
opens the casket, she finds a baby girl. She is a very virtuous woman
and when she hears that this baby will bring destruction to Ravana and
his clan, she advises select courtiers to take the casket and cast it away.
Mandodari curses the baby but also adds a rider that she will survive
if she finds the protection of a king who has untold wealth and power,
but lives like a hermit. This seems like an impossible feat and so Ravanas
destruction can be avoided. The courtiers wander around for days and
then leave the baby in a field in Mithila. Incidentally, this story has an
exact parallel in the birth of Paris, Helens abductor, who was also
banished from his father Priams kingdom of Troy because he would
bring destruction to his clan. But he was brought up in the home of a
shepherd who found him cast upon a hillside.
As the myths and legends continue to get woven into each other,
we realize that Helen was the half-sister of Aphrodite, the goddess of
love. Aphrodite is the daughter of Zeus, and she appeared from the
waves of the sea because Zeus had coupled with a sea-nymph.
Botticellis painting, The Birth of Venus (Aphrodites name in the Roman
myths) celebrates this event. Later, in the contest of the goddesses,
Paris is summoned to judge who is the most beautiful. Aphrodite wins
because she promises him the love of the most beautiful woman on

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Abducting Epic Heroines

earth. Interestingly enough, the same Aphrodite had cursed Tyndareus

that his daughters Helen and Clytemnestra would commit adultery, and
whether the sin was voluntary or not, it would be punished by violence.
So Paris travels to the court of Menelaus and meets Helen who
already has a son and daughter with her husband. When Menelaus
goes to Crete for his grandfathers funeral, Paris transgresses the law
of hospitality by plundering his hosts treasury and running off with his
wife. It may be a point in support of elopement rather than abduction
that the palace guards did not stop them because Helen went voluntarily
with Paris. She was deeply enamoured by the handsome man.
When Menelaus returns, he is inconsolableand he seeks revenge.
His pride has been hurt, his reputation destroyed. Thus he goes to the
court of his brother, Agamemnon and they garner the support of all the
Greek warriors who had given their pledge before. The great Greek
fleet (assembled over ten years) sails towards Troy. This crossing of
the sea is similar to the trials of Rama. He sincerely seems to love the
wife he has lost, but he too has to garner the monkey armies of Sugriv
to find a way to Lanka from the mainland. The dis-similarities are that
Ravana had taken Sita in his flying chariot and thereafter kept her in the
Ashoka grove, protected by women-rakshashes. Paris takes Helen to
Troy by ship and there he marries her under the auspices of his father,
Priam. They also have a number of children together.
Again like Rama, after the Trojan War during which the Trojan
brothers, Hector and Paris are killed (among hosts of warriors from
both sides), Menelaus is able to claim his wife and take her back to
Sparta where he is king. He could not help but be suspicious of her. In
fact, the legend of Helen tells us that she was finally spirited away by
the Gods to Elysium where she married Achilles. So Helen - not
concurrently like Draupadi but chronologically - also had five husbands.
They were Theseus, Menelaus, Paris, Deiphobus (Paris younger brother,
after the death of Paris and before her rescue by Menelaus) and finally
Achilles in Paradise.
Sita of course is rescued by her husband Rama after he kills Ravana,
his brothers and his valiant son, Indrajit. But Rama cannot get over his
suspicions either and she has to undergo Agni-pariksha which gives
us a set of other mirror-like reflections of mythical heroines. Ultimately,
Sita is transferred into the bowels of the earth and Rama is left bereft

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Abducting Epic Heroines

of his one true love, his only wife. Virtuous Sita can be likened to Helens
cousin Penelope who remained true to her husband Odysseus. She
rejected all 108 suitors who came to woo her in his absence and waited
for him all those 19 years, until his return from the Trojan War and
when he was lost at sea, retold in Homers epic, The Odyssey.
Sitas disappearance into the bowels of the earth has other reflections
in the Greek legends. The story of Persephone recalls that Hades, King
of the Underworld abducts this beautiful maiden from her mother, earthgoddess Demeter and takes her away to be his consort. After repeated
pleas, Demeter is able bring back her daughter. But the promise is
made for only six months of the year as the maiden had eaten six
pomegranate seeds during her time in the underworld. Thus the concept
of seasons is linked to the re-appearance of Persephone upon the earth;
the dark days of autumn and winter begin when she returns to Hades.
The story of Orpheus and Eurydice is another interlinked story where
Eurydice is spirited away from her husband after a snake bite. He stops
playing the lyre and dark winter days descend on the earth. All of Nature
is worried and they trace Eurydice to the kingdom of Hades where
Orpheus goes to rescue her. Hades accepts his pleas on the condition
that he does not look back to see if she is following him. But when
Orpheus is almost at the mouth of the earth, he turns. Immediately
she is whisked back and he loses her forever. Like Rama, Orpheus
mourns his one true wife for ever more.
The final but amazing similarity between the stories of Helen and
Sita are the interpretations that they were not abducted at all, but their
shadow images were taken away. In fact this is the myth or ploy to
prove that both women remained completely virtuous and could be
revered as goddesses in later times. According to one source, Paris and
Helen must have been travelling on separate ships when they left Sparta.
Helen had her own large retinue of servants with her, and the ships
weaved their way across Phoenecia towards Egypt. There, Proteus,
king of Egypt, took Helen from Paris and gave him a phantom image of
her. Proteus kept Helen hidden in a cave and restored her to Menelaus
on his return after the Trojan War. Why Paris accepted this is anybodys
guess. Or did he not know?
In the case of Sita, the stories of the Maya-Sita or Chhaya-Sita are
much in evidence across centuries. In the Adhyatma Ramayana, Rama

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Abducting Epic Heroines

knows about Ravanas abduction plan and he orders Sita into the kitchen
in their hut, and tells her to remain there. She places her chhaya (shadow)
outside the hut which Ravana captures, but remains hidden within the
kitchen hearth. She knows she will be united with Rama after Ravana
dies. In another version, Agni the God creates the illusion of Sita for
Ravana to abduct and keeps the real Sita hidden, perhaps in heaven,
until it is time to restore her to the grieving Rama. Thus Maya Sita
faces the Agni-Pariksha and after her annihilation, the real Sita returns
to Rama. This story of fire is linked to the one of her previous birth
where Vedavati and Padmavati immolated themselves to escape the
lust of Ravana.
A point in favour of an illusory Sita is produced during the war in
Lanka by Indrajit. He said he had killed her to demoralise Ramas army.
But Hanuman discovered she was still alive in the Ashoka grove. At the
end of the epic, when Sita has truly gone, Rama builds a golden image
of her and places it beside his throne in order to rule the kingdom with
his consort.
Thus the legends and myths of the great civilizations intercross until
it is difficult to distinguish which stories came first. The motifs of twins,
divine birth, abduction and war abound in the epics. Helen remains a
symbol of beauty and vice whereas Sita is one of beauty and virtue.
Although Helen is never a rounded character with positive and negative
qualities for the ancient story-tellers, Homer does give her some modicum
of remorse when she wishes she had not transgressed her vows which
cost the lives of so many heroes, including her beloved brothers. She
also grieves at the funeral of Homer in The Iliad. Her story continues
beyond Homers epic, with its symbol of violence and imminent
destruction described by Yeats in Leda and the Swan:
How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?
A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.

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Nandan Dasgupta

Too Many Ramayanas?

That there are many Ramayanas is well known. Less known is that
there are hundreds, often radically divergent. And so it is not strange to
hear of a meat-loving Ram, of a Sita who is Ravans daughter or of a
Laxman who murders a defenceless Indrajit.
Many texts are not even called Ramayanas (The Path or Journey
of Ram). For example, Krittivas Ojhas 15th century Ram-katha is titled
Sriram-panchali, though Bengalis call it Krittivasi Ramayan. All
narratives are not complete Ramayanas for instance, in Acharya
Hemchandras 12th century Jain Trishashthishalakapurusha Charitra,
Ram is one of 63 strong purushas. Some have influenced other major
Ram-kathas, like the 14th century Sanskrit Adhyatma Ramayana
influenced Goswami Tulsidas 16th century Ramcharitmanas (Shadow
Sita and the birth of Ram as four-handed Vishnu) and T.R.
Ezhuthacchans 16th century Malayalam Adhyatma Ramayanam. For
that matter, no Ramayana has pan-India acceptance - not even Valmikis,
which is, disputably, the earliest written Ramayana.
Buddhist: There is a theory proposing that the earliest written
Ram-kathas were Buddhist, and Valmiki then stitched them together. In
the Sama Jataka, a blind hermits son is filling his jar at a river when he
is mistakenly killed by the king of Kashi. In the Sambula Jataka, a
demon propositions Sambula, wife of a prince of Kashi, threatening to
cut her to pieces if she does not reciprocate. The Anamak Jataka
refers to an exile, an abduction and to the earth breaking incident. In the
Dasarath Jataka, Dasarath, king of Kashi (in Valmiki, it is Kosala) has

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Too Many Ramayanas?

three children from his chief queen Ram Pandit, Laxmankumar and
Sita. The queen dies; the next chief queens son is Bharatkumar. When
he is six years old, his mother demands that he be named crown prince.
Dasarath does not accede but advises the three siblings to seek safety
in the forest or with some other king. It is predicted that Dasarath
would live for another 12 years; he asks them to return when they see
smoke rising from his funeral pyre. The siblings make a home in the
Himalayan forests. Dasarath dies after 9 years. Bharat goes to fetch
Ram but he refuses to return, saying that Dasarath told him to return
after 12 years. Bharat returns with Sita, Laxman and Rams slippers.
Ram returns in due course and marries Sita. Although the hypothesis of
these texts being earlier than Valmiki has met with extensive scholarly
disapproval, it is an interesting place to start a dialogue on the tradition
of diverse Ram-kathas.
Jain: Scholars generally believe the Valmiki Ramayana to have
been written around 300 BC, give or take a couple of centuries, as part
of a gradual codification of oral traditions; the storyline surviving hundreds
of re-tellings. The next noteworthy text is the Pauma-chariya (literally,
Life of Padma) by Vimalsuri written between the 1st and 4th centuries
AD. The foremost among Jain Ramayanas, it declares itself to be antiValmiki, which it claims is full of tall tales. It says that Ram was the 8th
Balabhadra in the present half-cycle of time (a Jain religious belief)
whereas Laxman and Ravan were the Narayan and Prati-narayan of
that period (again, a Jain concept) hence it was Laxman who slayed
Ravan (with his chakra). Laxman went to hell whereas Ram achieved
nirvana. A pious king and a great warrior, Ravan subdued all kings but
restored their kingdoms to them. He was called ten-faced as his face
was reflected in a nine-gem-studded necklace gifted by his mother.
Some Vidyadhars (a clan related to the Rakshasas) were called vanaras
because of a logo on their flag. Laxman accidentally killed Sambuka.
Ram had 8000 queens, Laxman 16000, Hanuman 100. Bali gave Sugriv
his kingdom. Ram made Bharat king as Kaikeyi wanted to prevent him
from taking orders like his father. She and Sita later became nuns.
There are several Jain Ramayanas after Vimalsuri. In Sanghadasas
Vasudevahindi (7th century, some say 3rd), Sita is Mandodaris daughter.
In Svayambhus Pauma-chariu (8th century) Sita has a twin brother
who falls in love with her. When he realises they are siblings, he

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Too Many Ramayanas?

renounces the world. Gunabhadra, the most important author after

Vimalsuri, relates in his Uttarpurana (9th century) that Ravan insulted
Sita in her earlier life. She is then born to him and Mandodari and
abandoned following dire predictions. There are several Ramayanas
including that contained in the Devi Bhagavat Purana that speak of
Sita being molested in an earlier life (Valmiki and Krittivas also have
this - both in the Uttarkanda), of being Ravan and/or Mandodaris
daughter and of being abandoned, and discovered by or delivered to
Janak or his wife. In the 18th century Kashmiri Ramayana by Divakar
Prakash Bhatta, Mandodari drinks the blood of Rishis and conceives
Sita. It is a popular story in Himachal Pradesh as well and is also found
in the Chandravati Ramayana (Bengal - 17th century) and in the
Adbhut Ramayana. (In this Ramayana we also hear of a 1000-headed
Ravan being slain by Sita (as Kali) when Ram is lying defeated and
unconscious.) In the Ramakien (Rams story) of Thailand (18th century),
instead of rice pudding, a rice ball is given to Dasaraths wives to consume
for conceiving a crow steals a piece, Mandodari eats it and has Sita.
Would this make Sita a half-sister of Ram?
Hemchandras version has the jealousy theme - used as the prime
reason and mitigating factor by many later Ram-kathaks for banishing
Sita. The device used is that Sita is persuaded/ bullied/ fooled by one or
more women into making a sketch of Ravan; then falls asleep with it
beside her; Ram chances upon her or is led there by the connivers.
Hemchandra dovetails his story neatly with Valmikis by the calumny
first travelling to the streets from the palace and then back from the
streets to Rams ears. In his story, Sitas co-queens are the conspirators;
in Krittivas, inquisitive hand-maidens persuade Sita to sketch; in
Chandravati, Kaikeyis daughter Kukua (an innovation) is the villain;
in at least one Telugu folk song and in the Ramakien it is Surpanakha
and her daughter respectively, having infiltrated the palace in disguise.
South: The most important Ram-katha of southern India is
Kambans Tamil Iram-avataram (11th- 12th century, also called Kamba
Ramayanam), the first Ramayana in a modern Indian language. By the
9th century, Ram had been firmly placed in the Puranas as an avatar.
As C. Rajagopalachari says, by the 12th century Ram had been
completely deified, with temples all over, and it would have been wholly
artificial for Kamban or Tulsidas to do as Valmiki did, to tell the story of Ramayana as

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Too Many Ramayanas?

just a heroic romance. Yet Ravan and Surpanakha are viewed

sympathetically. Sisir Kumar Das describes Kambans Ravan as
handsome and heroic, a devotee of Siva, a man of culture and refinement, a musician on
whose flag a picture of the harp (in fact, in Kamban it is a veena) is inscribed, loved by
brothers and wives and the subjects, (but) he becomes a prey of passion for Sita and
pays for his fatal flaw. Kambans Ram is not flawless either. He accuses

Sita of not being of good stock; or else, he says, she would have found
a way to die upon being abducted.
Burdened by a curse/boon, Kambans Ravan could not touch Sita
and so he lifted her together with the cottage/earth underneath. Kambans
Ahalya turned into a rock in a departure from Valmiki Ramayan, where
Ahalya was cursed to become invisible, interpreted by some as
banishment. Kamban introduced the pre-marital sighting and love at
first sight between Ram and Sita, expanded by later poets (Tulsidas
Ramcharitmanas is a prime example) into a full-fledged courtship and
swayamvar. Many Ramayanas have Maya Sita (started in Valmiki
Ramayana) or Chhaya Sita (such as the Adhyatma Ramayana).
Kamban created Maya-Janak, who tries to persuade Sita to accept
A powerful poem, Kambans descriptions of the wounded
Surpanakha among the ladies of Lanka; of the meeting of Kumbhakarna
and Vibhishan; of a distraught Ravan looking for and finding Meghnads
headless corpse on the battlefield; of Mandodaris demise while weeping
over Ravans dead body are a few of its highlights. It hugely influenced
other Ramayanas of southern India and of south-east Asia. However,
Telugu Ram-kathas and folk songs have significant independent
The Pampa Ramayana (also called Ramchandra-charita Purana)
by Nagchandra, a Jain, is perhaps the oldest Kannada Ramayana, also
of the 11th century. It is on the lines of the Pauma-chariya - Laxman
kills Ravan; Ram and Laxman have many wives; Laxman goes to hell;
Ram achieves nirvana. Torave Ramayana by Narahari (16th century)
is more popular. Here Manthara is Mahamaya, who has come to destroy
Ravan. Here too, Laxman fasts and stays awake for 14 years. In a folk
version mentioned by A.K. Ramanujan in his essay Three Hundred
Ramayanas in the Paula Richman edited Many Ramayanas, Ravan
(here Ravula) conceives and a daughter is born on the 9th day of the

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Too Many Ramayanas?

conception when he sneezes. Sita is he sneezed in Kannada. So

Ravula names her Sitamma. In the same song, Ravan tries his hand at
lifting Sivas bow but fails. This failure tale is in the Padma Purana and
in the Sriram-panchali as well; in the latter, Indra too tries his luck.
Nabaneeta Dev Sen tells of a Maithili folk song that has Sita lifting
Sivas bow with her left hand while sweeping the floor. Her father frets
that he would not get a husband worthy of her and that he now has to
find someone who could string the bow. With suitor after suitor failing,
panic sets in - Ab Sita rahali kumari, dhanusha na tootale he!
The 12th century Telugu Ranganatha Ramayanam, most probably
by Gona Buddha Reddi, makes several variations and innovations. He
tells of a chipmunk helping build the Ram-setu; it gathers dirt by rolling
in it and then shakes it off on the bridge! Ram strokes its back in
benediction, leaving three marks. Reddi has Indra coming as a crow to
Gautam and Ahalyas hermitage, and making Urmila sleep for 14 years
instead of Laxman (this is also in at least one Telugu folk song). He also
introduces a new character, Indrajits wife Sulochana, who retrieves
Indrajits corpse from the battlefield.
Another important Telugu Ramayana is the 14th century Molla
Ramayana written by poetess Molla of the potter caste. Her tale of
Guhak requesting Ram to keep his feet in the river during the crossing
so as not to turn his boat into a person a la Ahalya is modified in Krittivas
with Koibarta washing the dust off Rams feet before letting him board
his boat.
Bengali: Krittivas contributions include Hanuman armpitting the
sun and ferreting out Ravans death-missile from Mandodari. Also, there
is a Durga puja by Ram (thus syncretising Vaishnavism with Shakti
puja, like the Adbhut Ramayana) including a story of 108 blue lotuses.
He added a twist in the Gandhamadan tale that the herbs to be obtained
to bring Laxman back to life had to come in before sunrise. He has
Ram secretly disclosing himself to Garuda as the flute-bearing Sri
Krishna. He creates the character of Birbahu as a son of Ravan, with
whose death Michael Madhusudan Dutt begins his Meghnadbadh
Kavya. He also creates Taranisen, a son of Vibhishan and Sarama.
Tarani is a tough opponent and is killed only with Vibhishans help, who
knows of Taranis desire to be killed by Ram so that he can go to
heaven. The Angad and the Kalnemi incidents appear in Ranganatha

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Too Many Ramayanas?

Ramayana as well. The Angad-Raibar could be an interpolation by

Kavichandra, a 16th century poet. It may be of interest that the extant
Krittivasi Ramayana is a much rewritten version that was eventually
frozen in early 19th century. Please refer to an interview of Prof. Kunal
Chakravarti, published on You Tube by Sahapedia.
Chandravati of Mymensingh tells us Sitas story, of her hopes,
longings and disappointments. Most of the story is told by Sita in the
first person and is perhaps the first Ramayana (at least in Bengal) from
the womans viewpoint : from the point of view of the women characters
in Ramayana and perhaps even of women of Chandravatis time.
Reddis Sulochana survived in Marathi folk-songs and in the 18th
century Bengali Jagadrami Ramayana by the father-son duo Jagatram
and Ramprasad from Bankura (here again Sita kills the 1000-headed
Ravan), but became Pramila in the Bengali 19th century Meghnadbadh
Kavya. Michaels tale of Laxman slaying an unarmed Meghnad in a
temple is permanently etched on the Bengali psyche, over-riding the
stories of armed battle as told by Valmiki and Krittivas.
Too Many Ramayanas: I could not find who created the
Laxmanrekha. It is not there in Valmiki Ramayana. Krittivas refers
to it - gondi diya berilen lokkhon shey ghor - but well before that
Gona Buddha had Laxman draw seven lines around the hut and put a
fatal curse on them, and even before that in Hanuman-nataka or Mahanataka (10th century), Laxman was going off after the golden deer
with Ram after scratching out a line around the hut. The Ananda
Ramayana (attributed by some to Valmiki) too mentions this crossing
the line!
There are innumerable other Ram-kathas (such as the Bhushundi
Ramayana, the Bhaskar Ramayana, the Bhavartha Ramayana, the
Uttarramcharit, the Jagamohan Ramayana, etc.) in every major and
many minor languages of India, almost too many of them. (The crow
motif alone can lend itself as the subject of a scholarly dissertation.)
But it is an enjoyable journey, one I would recommend. As Gandhi may
have said, it opens the windows of our minds and acquaints us with the
uniformity in diversity. For instance, we are reminded of another ancient
story when Nabaneeta Dev Sen tells us of a Telugu song in which Sita
laughs at Ravan when he fails to lift Sivas bow, obviously annoying
him. We realize that in telling the Ramayana in our conversations, as did

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Too Many Ramayanas?

the kathaks of yore, we unknowingly source stories from different Ramkathas, at times new creations of their authors. Some of these stories
were loaded with moral, devotional and gender issues that were often
more relevant at the time of their writing than now.
I will end with a charming fable created, rather re-created by
Krittivas that many of us know but which I am repeating nevertheless.
Rishi Agastya tells Ram (post-facto) that only the one who had not
eaten, slept, or looked at a woman for 14 years could kill Indrajit. Laxman,
he said, was the only person who fit the bill during the war. Ram is
skeptical that Laxman qualifies; he summons and cross-examines
Laxman. For two of the requisites, he accepts Laxmans word; for the
food he asks for proof. Apparently Ram would give him fruits and say,
Dhoro Lokkhon (literally, hold this Laxman) and not specifically ask
him to eat them, and so Laxman never did! Laxman produces all the
food except that of seven days. Aha, what do you have to say now,
says Ram. Laxman explains this as those days when fruits could not be
gathered the days when tidings of Dasaraths death came, Sita was
abducted, both he and Ram were bound by the Nag-pash, Maya Sita
was beheaded by Ravan, both were abducted by Mahi-Ravan, he was
felled by the Shakti-shel, and Ravan was killed.
I would like to make two points here, apart from reminding readers
that Valmikis Ram had a weakness for grilled venison, at least while in
the forest, and Laxman was the cook. One, as proof of not looking at a
woman, Lakshman says he could recognize only Sitas anklets out of
the jewelry scattered by her during the abduction, as he had never lifted
his eyes beyond her feet. This is mentioned in Valmiki Ramayana too.
And, as we saw, Reddi and others (including Adhyatma Ramayana)
had Laxman fasting and staying awake for 14 years. Thus, when Krittivas
wrote of Laxmans invincibility, the raw material was already there.
Often Ram-kathaks have taken earlier stories and built stories around
them. Ramanujan calls this phenomenon meta-Ramayana. Two, the
expression Dhoro Lokkhon has become a Bengali metaphor. As
Bengalis know, Ram is not just a noun but also an adjective in their
language, with several sayings built on the Ram-katha. So it is in many
other languages. Perhaps it is when epics enter our language
as metaphors and other expressions of speech that they live on

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Nishtha Gautam

The Invisible Family of Rama:


In this article I have made an attempt to stretch the meaning of

invisibility in the context of Sanskrit drama. The article deals with four
categories of invisibility, namely: magic, disguise, hiding (behind a tree,
pillar, etcetera) and ignorance (about the characters very existence).
The last one is the most peculiar of all. I have chosen Bhavabhutis
Uttar-ramcharitam, the story of Ram beyond the Ramayana, as it
narrates the most intriguing, and humane, personal story of a gods
longing for his invisible family.
In the first three kinds of invisibility there is a complicit bonding
between the playgoers and the invisible character as s/he is meant to
be seen only by the audience. The audience is made a party to the
emotions of the character which is invisible to the other characters in
the play but visible to the audience.
Invisibility is not unique to Sanskrit drama. There are several
instances of the same in Greek drama as well, which is considered to
have evolved during the same time. Nevertheless, invisibility does not
appear to be as important an element in Greek drama as it is in the case
of Sanskrit drama. A more apt comparison could be made with
Elizabethan drama. In Shakespeares plays the characters often hide
and disguise themselves. In plays like Midsummer Nights Dream,
Hamlet and Macbeth there are instances of magic-aided invisibility.
Invisibility through disguise is found in plays like As You Like It, Merchant
of Venice and Twelfth Night. However, such parallels are seen as
unrelated developments as a big time gap lies between the composition

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of Sanskrit plays and Shakespearean drama.

Although invisibility, in all its forms, happens to be an important
element of Sanskrit drama, there are no clear guidelines for depicting it
on-stage. In the case of magic-aided invisibility the on-stage performance
poses a challenge. Bharatas Natyashastra, too, does not prescribe any
specific gestures or movements for the same. Directors have dealt
with this issue in their own way. For example, Tarla Mehta accounts
that in some of the performances of Uttar-ramcharitam, Tamasa and
Sita would imply their invisibility by touching the head with the right
hand raised from the side in the gesture of the arala hasta, where the
fore-finger is curved like a bow and the thumb is also curved with the
remaining fingers separated and turned upwards (Mehta 363). She
further states that another way of establishing invisibility could be
concealing oneself behind the pillars.
Of the four categories mentioned earlier, the magic-aided invisibility
is the most dramatic. There are multiple examples of such kind of
invisibility in Sanskrit drama. In Uttar-ramcharitam, Tamasa and Sita
are made invisible by the powers of Bhagirathi who wishes them to be
around Rama without his knowledge.
Invisibility facilitated by magic is generally an element of the
Natyadharmi drama. Since magic falls beyond the limits of the mundane
and the ordinary, it cannot be accommodated in the Lokdharmi drama.
In the Natyadharmi drama invisibility through magic adds to the
theatricality and raises it above the ordinary. However, even in the
Lokdharmi drama there is some scope for hiding and disguise.
Now remains the last and the most peculiar of all the four categories
of invisibility, namely when the leading characters of the play have no
knowledge of the existence of the invisible character. Its peculiarity lies
in the fact that the invisible character has no existence till the time
there is an official declaration and acknowledgement of the same. In
Uttar-ramcharitam, although the audience know about the identity of
Lav and Kush, they remain invisible to their father and grandparents for
the most part of the play. This kind of invisibility is the most intriguing
and dramatic as it is generally perceived only when the play moves
towards the dnouement.
The recognition is also brought about in equally dramatic way and
often involves magic. In Uttar-ramcharitam, Rama suspects Lav and

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Kush to be his and Sitas sons as the boys possess the magical
jrimbhaka weapons. Earlier, Rama had told Sita that these prestigious
weapons possessed by him would be inherited by her progeny.
The playwrights employ these various forms of invisibility to attain
specific goals, both theatrical and philosophical. Firstly, invisibility is used
as a tool to further the plot of the play. When a character, unseen,
witnesses or overhears something crucial, it acts as a catalyst for a
chain reaction of events. Invisibility, through magic, disguise or hiding,
heightens the theatricality of the play. The element of surprise and awe
attached with it makes the action lively and holds the attention of the
audience. Here, the focus is brought upon the performing aspect of the
play. Invisibility also generates humorous situations which add to the
entertainment value of the play.
In the hands of an adept playwright, invisibility becomes a medium
to define the nature of a character. In Sanskrit drama, there is often a
conglomeration of the mortals and the celestial beings. Both the laukik
and the alaukik characters are endowed with characteristic qualities.
While the celestial beings have the ability to render themselves or others
invisible by using their magical powers, the laukik characters or the
mortals often receive this ability to become invisible as a gift from their
celestial patrons. Bhagirathi renders Sita invisible even to the deities
through her powers in Uttar-ramcharitam. Although Rama perceives
Sitas presence in the forest, he trusts Vasantis sense more than his
own since she happens to be a sylvan deity. Clearly she is not here.
How else could even Vasanti fail to see her? Could this, indeed, be a
dream? (Kale 39). It is to be noticed that Rama and Sita are treated as
mere mortals in this play. Invisibility, thus, becomes a device which
makes the absolute gap between the divine and the human more sharply
Invisibility of self and others also gives the characters an opportunity
to reveal their true nature and express their feelings freely. This enables
the audience to grasp the nuances of character delineation attempted
by the playwright. Encouraged by her invisibility and moved by Ramas
misery, Sita is tempted to remain in his company but reminds herself
that it is not the model behaviour, befitting a queen. Bhavabhuti here
gets an opportunity to show that although he has humanized the deities,
they follow an ideal code of conduct. Oh, fie, fie! Infatuated by the

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touch of my lord, I have surely committed a blunder (Kale 38). Sita

also believes that since Rama abandoned her in the past it is not
appropriate to approach him without his permission. Revered Tamasa,
let us move away. If the king sees me he will be more angry with me
for having approached him without leave (Kale 29).
In Uttar-ramcharitam, Bhavabhuti has managed to surprise the
reader/audience through his radical characterization. Rama and Sita
are treated not as deities but as mortals. Their actions are questioned
and censured unlike the pure veneration for gods and goddesses. The
episode involving Sitas invisibility is crucial in this respect as it offers a
justification for her noble attitude in the end. Bhavabhuti makes Sita
forgive her husband not out of any characteristic goodness but because
she feels sympathetic towards him. My heart is somehow bewildered,
its own sorrows forgotten, on account of the stirring of my husbands
grief, the fury of which is irresistible and terrible (Kale 36). Being
invisible she sees Rama feeling sorry for abandoning her and lamenting
her loss. Sitas invisibility, thus, allows the playwright to propose that it
is not by default that she is benevolent. The magnanimity and tolerance
in her character is an outcome of her direct observation.
The playwrights have also used invisibility for theoretical purposes.
For example, in plays like Swapnavasavadattam, invisibility gives the
playwright an opportunity to expound the idea of illusion versus reality
in drama and in real life. In almost all the traditions of the ancient Indian
philosophy, including Advaita Vedanta, Brahman is considered to be
the sole Reality, One without a Second, and the cosmos is thought to be
mere Appearance. Frederic F Fosts interpretation of the Advaitin
philosophy explicates the idea further. Just as a magician, who with his
conjuring tricks plays with our perceptual faculties in order to create
the illusion that some-thing has come from nothing or that one thing has
changed into another, so Brahman by his mysterious, creative power
deludes us into believing that the phenomenal world is real (387). Thus,
what is considered as real is actually no more than illusion. The same
analogy can be used in the context of drama. The events and characters
on stage appear to be real though it is not so. In the context of Sanskrit
drama and its theoretical concerns with illusion and reality Richard
Lannoys observation is quite interesting. He suggests that one
interpretation of the ancient name of India, Bharata Varsha, means

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literally land of the actors. Fost proposes that such an interpretation

lends support to the idea that samsara is an ongoing game or masquerade
in which the actors assume a succession of masks in fulfilment of their
karma (396).
Invisibility also allows the playwrights to explore the nuances of
love. Bhavabhuti conceptualizes Rama and Sita in Uttar-ramcharitam
as ordinary mortals and not as incarnations of the gods. However, their
love is shown to be of the highest moral stature. It is the kind of love
that does not need to manifest itself through physicality. Sambhog, or
union, is possible in Uttar-ramcharitam even when Sita is not physically
with Ram, or thought to be absent. Tamasa, perhaps, realizes this and
thus asks Sita to savour the sight of her beloved husband, which would
gratify her. Enjoy the sight of your husband (Kale 33). Sitas invisibility
does not hinder the separated couple in expressing their mutual love. As
a matter of fact, it rejuvenates their love which was hitherto bedimmed
due to circumstances. Perceiving Sita to be around and yet being unable
to see her, Rama realizes the void that her absence has created in his
life. For Sita, Ramas sufferings and lamentations wipe away all the
bitterness in her heart and she is ready to forgive him.

Works Cited
Fost Frederic F. Playful Illusion: The Making of Worlds in Advaita Vedanta in
Philosophy East and West, Vol. 48, No. 3 (Jul., 1998).
Kale, M R ed. The Uttarramcharitam of Bhavabhuti. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas, 1934.
Lannoy, Richard. The Speaking Tree: A Study of Indian Culture and Society. Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1971.
Mehta, Tarla. Sanskrit Play Production in Ancient India. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas,

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Susmita Dasgupta
Faridabad, Haryana

King, Hero and the Divine

Incarnate Three Versions
of the Ramayana

Ramayana versus the Mahabharata: Institutions versus Individual Will

The two epics of India, namely the Ramayana and the Mahabharata
have been written, retold and performed over hundreds and thousands
of versions across India since these were first composed. The
Mahabharata battles with the egos of individuals and their wills their
aspirations while the Ramayana is about individuals who fall into societal
roles and uphold the institutions of marriage, family and kingdom. The
Mahabharata is human ambition and aspiration as individuals; the
Ramayana is about the containment of human proclivities into social
norms and institutions. The Mahabharata is about agency, the Ramayana
is about discipline of individuals as members of institutions such as the
family, State, kingdom or the monastery of a sage.
Possible Age of The Epics: Age of Empire and Buddhist and Jain Challenge to
the Vedas

It is difficult to date the composition of these epics but it is possible

that they were composed anywhere between 400 BCE to 400 CE and
that each was aware of the other. The Mahabharata has Ramopakhyan
while the Ramayana mentions the Kurus and the Pandavas. It is entirely
possible that each was reviewed with reference to the other. However,
the period in which the epics were composed represents one of the
most turbulent times of Indian history. We have the establishment of the
Mauryan Empire, its decline and collapse, the coming of the Scythians,
the Kushan Empire and then eventually the rise of the Gupta Empire.

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King, Hero and the Divine Incarnate

Buddhism is established as an Imperial religion, the schools of Buddhism

arise fragmenting belief, Jainism spreads to southern India and then
eventually Hinduism consolidates itself as a religion and Sanskrit
literature flourishes. Amidst all of this, the epics appear to be attempts
at culturally uniting a large territory with some uniformity and universality
of beliefs and norms known as the dharma.
Three Versions of Ramayana: Valmiki, Krittibas and Tulsidas

The Ramayana and the Mahabharata have been retold and rewritten
with enthusiasm since the 10 CE. The subsequent versions of the epics
have added substance, arguments, expositions and explorations of themes
expressed in the original works. It is the endeavor of this brief paper to
bring out the differences between the versions of the Ramayana, try
and understand the historical contexts and the rationale for these
variations. The essay studies the Aranyakanda of the three versions of
the Ramayana, namely Valmiki, Kirtibas of Bengal and the Avadhi
Ramayana of Tulsidas. Written centuries apart, the skeleton story of
Ramayana is woven and dyed in the morals and the hues of the respective
ages of their retelling. It is the aim of the present paper to discuss the
differences as well as the underlying similarities among the versions.
Ram: The Protector of the Sages

Valmikis Ramayana is about a king, Rama who lives life, encounters

challenges and executes trials and tribulations like a king. Krittibass
Rama is a hero, one whose purpose is to indulge in heroic deeds and
build up the reputation of being a rather strong and a virtuous man.
Tulsidass Ramcharitamanas speaks of Rama as the Purushottam, an
incarnation of the Divine in the form of a perfect man, not perfect in the
sense of merely being an ideal but a man as a man should be in order
for him to be a king, a husband, a social being, a brother, a friend and
even an enemy. Valmikis Rama is exploring forever the perfect state
of a kingdom and even though he be exiled in the forest, he nonetheless
takes upon the business of protecting the sages from the terrible demons
who disturb the pursuit of asceticism of these sages. The Rama of
Krittibas says that he has the duty of defending the sages but the sages
do not particularly ask him to be their defender. In fact the Aranyakanda
begins by Rama following the sages out of the forest when they, harassed

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King, Hero and the Divine Incarnate

by the demons decide to leave their abodes all at once and migrate
elsewhere. Rama asks them what they were discussing among
themselves without keeping him in confidence. This small couplet shows
that in the Ramayana of Krittibas, the sages are not too keen to have
Rama protect them.
In the version of Valmiki, however the sages insist that Rama should
become the protector of the sages so that the sages need not inflict
punishment nor have the need for envy. The idea of the king as a
monopoly of force so that the society can go on with business as usual
without any need to hold arms or to apply force must have been a very
early expression of the idea of the modern State. Indeed, the great
arms and the military acumen which the sages develop are passed on to
Rama as he was supposed to wage wars on their behalf. In the version
of Valmiki the sages have a particular mission which is to arm men to
fight their battles to eliminate the demons. In the version of Krittibas,
the sages are fairly independent and they are friends with Rama for the
common enemy they have in the demons. It sometimes appears as if
Rama uses the plea of defending the sages to cover up his own motive
of slaying the demons.
The Ramcharitmanas does not quite have this flavor. It is a work in
which Rama is Divine in the form of a human, a human who happens to
be a King, for he need not have been one. The sages throng to see
Rama because they know that he is Divine and so is Sita; they are the
incarnations of Vishnu and Lakshmi respectively. There are no giving
of weapons to Rama for He being the Divine has every power within
Himself to defend humans against the demons.
The Forest and Civilization

The forest in Valmikis version is not out of the civilization and in

fact it is a place where the civilization is at its very best. Sages live in
picture perfect hermitages, flowers and fruits abound in the trees, birds
and deer roam freely here and sounds of chants emanate from the
hermitages, bright fires of sacrifices burn. The forest also has beautiful
maidens and apsaras. Besides, the forest is the lost land of the
Aryavarta, the janasthana, or the peoples or the natives land. Prof
Henry Heras mentions that India had a large indigenous population out
of which arose religions like Buddhism and Jainism which challenge the

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King, Hero and the Divine Incarnate

Vedic religion of the Aryans. The Aryavarta, typically the land mass
from Ayodhya westwards towards Greece is the land of the Aryans, or
the beat of the Aryans while the land mass towards the south and east
of Ayodhya is typically the land of the natives or the janasthana. These
lands were often thickly wooded and indeed farming seemed to have
been a difficult proposition. It is not unlikely that farmers often became
rich and like Janaka rose to powerful positions of kings. Aryans often
burnt these forests down to make way for their eastward journey into
the subcontinent. The Vedic Aryans were indeed in awe of the indigenous
people and indeed most sages of eminence were among these indigenous
people who lived in the forests. The period from the 4th BCE to the 4th
CE was also a period of intense interaction and reforms within the
Aryan faiths. With the onslaught of Buddhism and Jainism much of the
Aryan beliefs underwent change. One of the changes in the Aryans
was violence, warfare and killing, both of humans as well as of animals.
In Krittibas version, the forest is treated as a place exile, one which
is basic without the comfort of the palace. Indeed, when the trio arrive
at Panchavati, the place is so serene and scenic that they seem to
forget all about the forest and feel totally at home in their nice cottage
of leaves. Ramcharitamanas treats the forest as the abode of the Gods
since Gods rule over the cities and the jungles with equal ease, so the
distinction between the two spaces becomes irrelevant. Krittibas says
of Ram that he is so evolved a being that he is equally at ease in the
rudeness of the forest and the ease of the palace.
Sitas Arguments Against Weapons

In both Valmiki and Krittibas, Sita has a long dialogue with Rama in
the forest and this is about the necessity to give up arms. It is interesting
for this worry of Sita about Rama getting too fond of carrying weapons
is thus turning belligerent. In the Krittibas version Sita tells Rama a
story of how the old sage Daksha who was tricked by Indra into keeping
a sword of his in custody started getting bellicose and aggressive and
used it to kill the innocents in the forest. This is rather interesting because
Sita appears to represent the native and the indigenous people who love
the forest and are nonviolent people. It is entirely possible that among
such people towards the east that Buddhism arose as a protest and a
counter to the Vedic religion built around warfare, animal sacrifice and

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King, Hero and the Divine Incarnate

the burning of the forests.

Interestingly, the diatribe of Sita against Rama carrying weapons
has happened after Viradha attacked them. Is Sita not scared of this
episode? Is the Viradha incident not a reason enough for Sita to desire
that the men should be armed fully? Is the episode of Viradha contrived?
Written from a different perspective? If so, then what were Valmikis
compulsions in creating stories of vicious demons around Rama? Sita
asks Rama not to create enemies out of demons; this is rather strange
because demons are painted in such vicious terms that they appear to
be not even worth considering as allies. In Ramcharitmanas, Sita barely
speaks. She is mentioned as an overwhelmed listener of Anasuyas
discourses of what constitutes the virtues of women.
When Sita speaks of giving up arms, living in the forest just to abide
by his fathers wishes and then returning to Ayodhya, Rama insists that
the sages need protection and that they had been rather categorical
about their wanting Rama to protect them. In the Krittibas Ramayana,
Sita seems surprised why the sages who are so powerful in themselves
need Rama to take up their causes? The Ramcharitamanas does not
really mention arms, and in fact the sages impart their knowledge of
yoga and penance to Rama before they merrily depart for their Heavenly
Goodness Slips Off

In the Valmikis version Rama collapses when the terrible demon

Viradha picks Sita up and starts running away with her. He says to
Lakshman that Kaikeyis wishes are at last fulfilled with the brothers
dead and Sita abducted to which Lakshman assures Rama with the
words that all the anger he has pent up against Bharat will now be
unleashed on Viradha. This is a momentary slip when the all is well
minds of Rama and Lakshmana are revealed to be in fact jealous and
small. In the Krittibas Ramayana the words as above are uttered after
Sita is abducted by Ravana. Interestingly, there are no similar slips in
the Ramcharitamanas and indeed when Surpanakha describes Rama
as her enemy, she has only words of high praise for Rama, Lakshman
and even Sita.
In Valmikis version, Rama wants to shoot Jatayu down as soon as
he spots the giant bird. It is only when Jatayu speaks up and introduces

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King, Hero and the Divine Incarnate

himself as Dasarths friend does Rama let go of him. In the Krittibas

Ramayana, Rama suspects Jatayu of having devoured Sita when he
sees blood in his beak. In the Ramcharitamanas such occasions do not
arise because Rama is the all-knowing Divine Incarnate.
Of course in both the Valmiki and Krittibas versions, Sitas tirade
against Lakshman when she hears the wails of Mareech in Ramas
voice are shocking. It is unfortunate that Sita could have so pathetically
misunderstood Lakshman and his intentions and even thought of Bharat
as being so disgraceful. These slippages show that all through the
Ramayana, the main players have only attempted to present a picture
of a happy family though inwardly each of their minds held pockets of
extreme darkness.
On the Virtues of a Woman

In Ramcharitamanas, the long dialogues are between Anasuya, the

wife of sage Atri and Sita, where Sita mainly sits down and listens as
the elderly woman speaks of the virtues of a woman. Women, she says
are sinful by nature and they become virtuous only by marrying virtuous
men, never desiring anything for herself, never desiring any other man.
In the section where Surpanakha approaches Rama, Lord Shiva who is
telling the tale of the Ramayana to Parvati, says her that a woman
cannot resist the sight of a man, be it her own brother or father. A
woman, by her very sexuality is sinful and her desires brook no incest.
This is strange given the fact that Parvati is a woman, but Tulisdas
makes a difference between Gods and humans. The latter are fallen
because of their desires from which only Devotion can rescue them.
The construction of the individual as evil, a sinner seems so uncannily
Christian and Tulsidass Bhakti is so coloured by Christian consciousness
that one wonders whether Christianity has not had a greater influence
on the Indian psyche than what is usually construed.
Interestingly in Valmikis Ramayana, it is Rama who in the Ayodhya
Kand teaches Sita that a virtuous woman should stay back with her in
laws and look after them rather than follow her husband. In Krittibass
Ramayana, Sita is admired and accepted as she is except of course by
Rama who puts her into the fire. The fire ordeal is the only instance
where a womans virtues are ever discussed but all women are taken
as they are whether they be Sita or Surpanakha.

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King, Hero and the Divine Incarnate

Golden Deer and Ravana

Ravana, when approaching Mareech to become the wily Golden

Deer, weighs his options in the Tulsidas version; on the one hand he
thinks that if Rama is indeed Divine then it is an opportunity for Ravana
to die at His hands and attain freedom from the cycle of birth and
rebirths; but if he is merely a mortal and even though he be powerful,
then warfare will be a means to defeat the duo of Rama and Lakshmana
and take Sita as his bride. However, Ravana also weighs in his mind
that Khara and Dushana who were so powerful and even more so that
Ravana had been annihilated by Rama all alone, how will it be possible
to defeat such a man? Ravana decides that Rama must be the Divine
and hence death in His hands will redeem him. This is because Ravana
too believes that because his body is sinful, there is no hope of
emancipation with the body, but the soul which is free can indeed attain
Ravana has no reflection in the versions of Valmiki or Krittibas. In
the former, he is aroused to vendetta as a warrior. In the latter his
carnal passions are invoked at the mention of Sita. Tulsidas cannot
afford any kind of defilement of Sita and invents the tale of the shadow
Sita, in which Rama hides her away into the fire so that later when he
sets up her Agni Pariksha, the shadow Sita can disappear and the real
Sita can emerge. The rough words that Rama speaks against Sita are
actually the words spoken against the shadow Sita. All that Rama does
against the shadow Sita is as justified as the maiming of Surpanakha,
because in a way the shadow Sita and the demoness are similar, the
latter craves for Rama but the former also craved for the life of the
Golden Deer. In fact in the Valmiki version, Sita wants Rama to catch
the deer live so that she can have it as her plaything but she also adds a
tag line in which she says that if required Rama should kill it so that she
may use its skin as a carpet. In Krittibas Ramayana, she wants the deer
slain and its skin for purposes of a seat. This is indeed a character
inconsistency in Sita for one who is so kind and nonviolent even towards
the demons wants a beautiful animal to be killed. While Valmiki and
Krittibas has glossed over this inconsistency without much fanfare, Tulsi
is careful not to assign such a contradiction to her and instead makes
the shadow Sita express her greed for the deer.

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King, Hero and the Divine Incarnate

Rams Mourning For Sita

The mourning of Rama for the lost Sita is graphic and tragic in all
the versions, but it is far less so in the Ramcharitamanas. Rama is very
clear that he has to only pretend to be sad due to the loss of his wife
because he has not lost the real Sita and even if he had it would be a
weakness for a man to mourn for his wife. This is because Tulsidas
speaks against marriage through the words of Rama. As Rama converses
with Narada, he tells the disciple that a man can only be emancipated if
he does not come in contact with a woman. This is like the seasons in
the forest of ignorance; in summers she may dry you up, in the monsoons
overwhelm you with desire, in the autumn fill you with satisfaction and
in winter she is blighty. She is like the owl at night who can delight the
darkness of a mans mind and for the shoal of fish she is like a hook.
This is interesting because in Valmikis and Krittibass version, Rama
looks for Sita everywhere imagining her to be among the trees, birds,
animals and even in the breeze and the seasons. Ramas lament appears
to have been construed by Tulsidas as lust which he is careful to paint
only as a pretence or a Leela. Hence even though Sita and he are an
ideal couple, Rama advises Narada never to marry if he is to attain
Conclusion: Three Eras, Three Flavours

The Ramayana of Valmiki appears to be a search for a King and an

Empire with arguments around norms of war, peace, aggression, violence
and arms. The Ramayana of Krittibas seems to be a story with high
drama of heroes, perhaps with a view to enhancing the performative
and theatrical qualities. But Ramcharitmanas appears to have only used
the story of the Ramayana as a skeleton to hang its real tale. The real
tale is exquisite poetry and Bhakti laced with strong Christian ideals
around the construction of the human and especially the Shudras, the
demons and women as born sinners.

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Subhadra Sen Gupta


Ram, Ravan & Us

You will rarely meet an Indian who is indifferent to the Ramayana

and does not have an opinion about its hero Ram. They may love and
worship him; dislike and criticize him or even feel a bit sorry for him but
they all know his story and often in great detail. Listening to Indians talk
about him you would think he was the hero of the latest blockbuster
from Bollywood but if Shahrukh Khan competed with Ram for popularity
the great Khan would lose.
Centuries after Valmiki composed his epic tale in that difficult
anushtup chhando, we study, brood over, praise and criticize Ram in
this nearly obsessive manner. For a book to stay so vibrantly alive in our
combined consciousness there has to be something unique about the
Ramayana. It still speaks to us because amazingly it still remains relevant
to our lives. You cannot say that about any other epic in the world. For
instance, I doubt if the Greeks discuss the Iliad or the Odyssey in the
same way or the English argue about Chaucer but for Indians the
Ramayana lives on. As my favourite mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik
writes about the treatment the Ramayana gets, Appropriated by
politicians, criticized by feminists, deconstructed by academicians, the
epic stands serene in its majesty giving joy, hope and meaning to millions.
So if we take off our Hindutva, Ram bhakt, feminist or civil liberties
activist glasses and look at the Ramayana as just readers of a great
literary masterpiece one discovers an extraordinary book. Valmikis
eternal creation has a plot full of surprising twists and turns; it is full of
primal emotions and a fascinating cast of characters. And dont forget

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Ram, Ravan & Us

this book has been a bestseller for probably two millennia.

In Valmikis Ramayana nearly till the end Ram is a human being
and not an avatar of a god. He is brave and gentle, energetic and
compassionate and at times unethical and cruel, like all human beings
can be. As Arshia Sattar in her translation of Valmiki describes him,
Ram is a man of equanimity and grace. It is with Ved Vyasas retelling
of the epic in the Mahabharata that Ram begins to acquire a divine halo
as he is aware that he is an avatar. By the time of Tulsidas
Ramcharitmanas and other regional narratives like those of Kamban in
Tamil and Krittivas in Bangla, the transformation is complete. By now
he is all god, the seventh avatar of Vishnu who has acquired the standard
godlike image large eyes, pouty smiling mouth, narrow waist, that
raised palm to bless us and a sanctimonious expression of sugary
goodness. Ram the warrior-prince transformed into a filmy Jai Ram.
Did anyone check with Valmiki if he wanted his hero to be changed
like this? I doubt he would have approved. He had created a man who
had human strengths and frailties, with subtle shades of black and white
in his character. His hero was unpredictable and volatile, patient and
graceful. If today we struggle to explain some of Rams actions the
killing of Vali or his treatment of Sita, it is because we are looking at him
as god. If we looked at him as a human being we would be more forgiving
and at times even empathise with his dilemmas. If we stopped seeking
the perfect Purushottam Ram who is frankly, so good it puts your teeth
on edge, we discover a man who is rather interesting.
If you put yourself in Rams place the first thing that strikes you is
his courage. He was as per Valmiki, in his mid-twenties when he was
banished from Ayodhya. He was a popular prince, his fathers action
was clearly an injustice and so no one would have questioned his right
to rebel but he does not do so. For a prince brought up in the luxury of
a palace to venture out to a life in the forest takes courage and fortitude.
His unquestioning and rather solemn acceptance of his duty can be a bit
irritating but this is a surprisingly mature young man.
Whenever I think of Ram taking on the might of Ravan there is an
image in my head. Of this lonely man in his thirties sitting on the beach
at Rameswaram with his heart full of dread about the fate of his young
wife (about seven years younger), worrying about how he will cross
the ocean and how his tribal army will face the power of Lanka. Most

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Ram, Ravan & Us

people would have turned back, but he does not. In contrast take the
five Pandavas who sat and watched Draupadi being humiliated in public.
All we get is some loud roaring from Bhim but he does not spring up
and smash Dushashanas head. Our brave Arjun sits with his head
hanging and doesnt even look at Draupadi. What was he afraid of?
Ram risks his life for Sita and he did not have to. His vanavaas was
nearly over and he could have given up Sita as a lost cause, gone back
to Ayodhya and married again. His father had three wives, so it would
have been accepted by his subjects. If the Pandavas had been in the
same situation, Sita would have been quickly forgotten and Arjun would
have gone off to find a new wife.
If we compare Ram and Ravan in the matter of courage it is a very
revealing picture. We hear a lot about Ravan the legendary warrior but
if you read the Lanka Kand, the section on the war, you realise that he
appears on the battlefield only at the end. The Lankan army is first led
by his generals, then Kumbhakarna, Indrajeet and his other sons and
when they are all slain, only then Ravana rides out to fight and his loud
declarations of rage seem tinged with fear. Ram, just armed with his
bow and arrow is leading his army from day one and for a long time he
was fighting while standing on the ground as he did not have a chariot.
So this is my question, why is it that we judge Ram by a different
yardstick compared to our other heroes? Even Ravan gets better press
than poor Ram. I have listened to people, often academics and at times
feminists go through complicated reasoning to explain Ravans actions.
This was a man who was so full of hubris and lust that he kidnaps
another mans wife, keeps her imprisoned under a tree and fills a young,
vulnerable womans mind with fearful images. This is not new as his
palace is full of women he has picked up and so his treatment of
Mandodari is hardly better than Rams attitude to Sita. Lakshman
abandons his wife Urmila for fourteen years without even bothering to
discuss it with her when Ram allows Sita to come along to the forest.
So why is it that we try so hard to justify their actions?
Actually what the Ramayana does is project an image of the time.
The lives of the women, from royal queens to rakshasas - Sita, Mandodari,
Urmila and even Tadaka and Surpanakha show us a society where
violence against women is accepted. As a realist Valmikis writing reflects
this social situation but he is not praising this violence and would be

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Ram, Ravan & Us

shocked to discover that India has not changed much since then. For
instance, his Sita is a spirited woman who protests the way Ram is
treating her and not a weeping saint. I once saw a Facebook post that
said that if an Indian man kisses his wife in public, society is shocked
and protests, but it is fine if he beats her in private. So Ram was just
being a good patriarchal Indian. If one wonders why Ram risks
everything to rescue Sita and then demands an agnipariksha it is
because he belongs to a feudal society. You rescue your wife for your
clans honour and then blame her for all your troubles. We all know it
everything from earthquakes and droughts to bankruptcies can be blamed
on women.
Some scholars of linguistics feel that the Uttara Kand (the epilogue)
that tells the story of Luv and Kush was not written by Valmiki. As a
storyteller I agree. You write this mind blowing adventure saga filled
with exciting events and bring it to a satisfyingly happy ending. Then
suddenly you add events that show your hero behaving like a cruel
dictator and then end it all in tragedy? As my favourite romantic
Sharadindu Bandopadhyay would have said, if you want the book to
sell, you dont mess with that happily-ever-after ending.
For centuries the Ramayana was kept alive by sutas and these
storytellers added their bit to the tale. What probably happened was
some storyteller, probably one who had an unfaithful wife, decided to
send a message to all troublesome women and came up with the Uttara
Kand. Look at it carefully; when Ram banishes Sita to the forest he
knows she is pregnant. He has no heir, so wouldnt he keep in touch
and may be even take his sons away? Kings in the past did not abandon
sons though they had no qualms about abandoning wives. Valmiki would
not have written such a tale. His Ram was a royal man and sons are
important to kings.
Ram the macho man would have never admitted it but I think he
really did love Sita. Of course this is not the Ram our Ram bhakts and
rathyatris like. He wanders in the forest searching for her, grief stricken
and full of yearning and then risks life and limb leading an army of tribal
warriors armed with tree trunks against the Lankan army that had sword
wielding warriors riding chariots. Then after Sita has been banished he
does not marry again and chooses to live like a hermit. At this stage he
reminds me of all the martyred Bengali mothers doing their best to

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Ram, Ravan & Us

make their children feel guilty. Ram is sort of saying to his subjects,
look what you have made me do and how I suffer. This tearjerker
hero is not Valmikis calm and graceful Ram.
There is another aspect of Rams character that the manuvaadi
rathyatris will not talk about. Ram clearly rejects the caste system. He
is constantly in the company of tribals and dalits; from Guha the tribal
chief who rows him across the river to Shabari who shares her berries
with him. Jambavan is his adviser, Hanuman is his dearest friend and he
trusts Vibhishan. In Ramrajya there seemed to be more social equality
than the rajya of the Rambhakt. I cant imagine Ram allowing a mosque
to be demolished in his name because clearly, all his subjects were
equally important to him.
Finally I have a confession to make. For me, Ram is often the
version we read in Sukumar Rays unforgettable play Lakshmaner
Shaktishel. Remember the song that goes Aajkay mantri Jambubaner
buddhi keyno khulcchey na...? In the play the wise one is not Ram but
Jambavan; the enterprising one is Hanuman and Sugreev is the strategist.
Ram is a handsome hunk hero who is clearly a good chap as everyone
is so very fond of him. He is brave, kind, gentle and good but also a bit
clueless. I think Sukumar Ray was quite fond of Ram and so am I.

Artist : K.G. Subramanyan (1924-29.6.2016)

(Sen Gupta has authored more than two dozen books for children, including a History
of India and a Ramayana. She is a recipient of Sahitya Akademi's Bal Sahitya Puraskar.)

|, 1423


Niraj Kumar Sinha

The Blue Prince

(Excerpts from an upcoming
novel by the author)

Kosalyas quarters were not part of the cluster of royal chambers

for the queens. It was therefore not guarded but for an attendant. Guruji
did not need to observe a protocol or secure an appointment to meet
her. So he went in directly, barely giving time to the attendant to rush in
and warn the queen. Guruji entered the room to find a tall and dignified
Kosalya all ready to meet him. The royal seer suddenly felt less brisk,
and a little awkward, facing a confident mother glowing after having
given birth to a divine baby. He looked around. It was a comparatively
modest, yet elegant tent. It had a puja corner with a strange idol. The
baby had just been fed and was asleep. Guruji could not have missed
the gentle radiance emanating from the baby, but he said to himself
again, I am getting sentimental in my old age or something of the
sort. Shifting his gaze, he cleared his throat and began, ErrKosalya,
about the blue colour of the baby. What about it, Guruji? Cutting
him short, Kosalya said in an even tone, What is there to say which
you or I do not already know? It is entirely up to you. Do not, by any
stretch of imagination, Guruji, think that I shall be any bit worried about
it. On the contrary, I am happy, and now I know I have nothing to worry
about. It is you and Maharaj who need to keep the rival chieftains of
Ayodhya from claiming supremacy. Guruji, my son is a Bisnu, and you
know this. You will do well to remember it. Both stood silently, facing
each other, as the attendant lady, hidden behind the central column,
strained to hear. But the rest of the dialogue was with the eyes, and the
poor lady had no luck. Looking out of the corner of his eye at the
strange idol one more time, Guruji dragged himself out of Kosalyas

|, 1423

The Blue Prince

quarters hoping no one had seen him. For many years after that moment,
Vashishtha would sit for hours and worry.
* * *
First the eldest, no, the chief queens son was named. The baby
with a pale, fair complexion, was named Bharat, for he would be king
and so had to be named after the legendary emperor of Bharatvarsha.
The other royal queen Sumitra had given birth to two radiant sons, and
were given appropriate kshattriya names befitting a martial clan. The
one with a golden glow was named Laxmana and the other, a slightly
dusky one, Shatrughna. Kosalya, Dasraths wife, was not elevated to
the status of a royal queen. So the blue boy was the last to be brought
before the Guru. Dasrath was extremely fond of this wife too and royal
instructions for Guruji were to name all four of them. The blue baby
was named Ram Chandra, nice to look at. Thats it. But was Vashishth
trying to say something here. For, there was already another legend of
the same name, Rama, the axe wielder, Parashu-Rama. The namakaran
samskara was followed by a gala feast. The ceremonial horse sacrifice
would ward off evil eyes, a tradition carried through time and space,
from the vast grasslands far, far north of the Himalayas, where there
was either relentless sun burning on the immense expanse of the
grassland, or snow. All were from the Sun Clan. They were excellent
riders and archers. And horse was for every season.
-2It was a place faraway to the west and north of Bharatvarsha
Jambudweep. In the snow clad mountains, called Alps by the locals,
someplace near the French Alps of this day, there was a tribe of very
large men. They had one peculiarity in common, they were blue. Much
later, as they were forced to migrate down to the lower valleys and
plains along the many long rivers cutting through the continent, a lady,
Odette who was completely un-blue, married a Mitanni King Parasatatar
and gave birth to twins. One was a completely blue baby, so she and the
twins were pronounced a threat to the kingdom by the priests. It was
convenient. They were banished. So were the other visiting members
of the tribe, and the tribe had to migrate eastward and southward,
crossing many snow-capped hills and valleys. The blue child was later

|, 1423



The Blue Prince

affectionately named Bison by the tribe, on the legendary tale of a

large, enormous, invincible bison which the group could never hunt.
Bison was a cute, friendly child. His younger twin, Ruud, meaning wolf,
was also partly blue. For the next six-seven months they kept travelling,
moving constantly toward the sun soaked continent of the Middle East
and then they crossed the high Hindukush and moved into the Tibetan
area. Somewhere, as they kept travelling eastward, people would start
calling Bison as Bizonu in their local language. And Ruud became just
Rud or Rudd. The boys grew into strapping teenagers. Bizonu was
completely blue. Rudd was by now completely fair but his throat was
blue. The twins made a formidable pair and were adept at many things.
For example, they had an excellent understanding of the languages and
behaviour of animals and birds. Rudd had a fiery temperament, and
was given to uncontrolled bouts of fury. It was only Bizonu who was
able to control him and pacify him.
* * *
There was one snow storm that was different. While the group
was safely ensconced in a large cave, the two brothers, along with their
chosen friends, went out searching for game. This expedition was against
Bizonus instinct, but goaded by Rudds passionate plea, the group had
moved out while the sky was indeed only partly clear and one could see
clouds in one corner of the southern sky. The elderly, who still had
alpine memory, smelled danger in the air and had forewarned. The blue
blooded were all caught. They were too much in the open. Tree cover
was too far away. By the time they plodded through the snow to reach
the nearest boulder, the snow was nearly waist deep. The wind blew
with terrific ferocity. It was soon dark because of the clouds. The small
group of the blue tribe was completely unprepared for an onslaught of
this magnitude. Frozen and freezing, the group made another mistake.
In utter panic, some of them started running, if that was at all possible
through the waist deep snow. They wanted to reach the tree cover,
hoping the tree line would break the ferocity of the storm. There was
no one in the group with enough experience or expertise to warn the
youngsters. Rudd was ahead while Pitumb, Bharu, Aari, Drpari were
behind. Bizonu suddenly felt out of breath and fell. Each breath felt like
a stab in his chest. He cried out for help, but no sound came out. The

|, 1423

The Blue Prince

bravest of the group, he was certainly not the sturdiest, and was not
built for this level of adverse climate. His feet, hands and nose were
numb. In the semi dark and blowing snow, he could barely see ahead.
There was a loud crack. He kept calling, he had found his voice again.
No one answered. No one was visible. No one could have gone so far
as not to be able to hear his call. But no one responded. Summoning all
his residual Alpine energy Bizonu dragged his feet out of the snow and
plodded forward. What he saw left him shocked. There now stood a
lake where there would have been a sheet of ice. Rudd and the group
had waded on to thin ice which had caved in taking all of them into the
freezing water. Boulders of snow rolled down. More ice cracked. More
water emerged. Crying Rudd.... Bisons eyes went dark.
* * *
Bison was rescued by a mountain traveller with an eagle on his
shoulder. The bird had spotted the freezing victim of the snowstorm.
The traveller covered him with a thick fur, took him inside a cave and lit
a fire. Bison remained unconscious for a day or two. Initially, the traveller,
looking at the blue body, was concerned. But, slowly the boy seemed
warmer and better, his hand and feet were no longer frozen, his pulse
was stronger, breathing normal and breath warm - there was no reason
for him to be so blue. Yet indeed he was. The boy opened his eyes and
was inconsolable. He wanted to know what had happened to his dear
brother and others of the group. And his tribe. He wanted to rush out,
but his body was still weak and he was unable to even sit. He cried in
helplessness. He told the stranger everything, who listened with a kind
expression on his grave face. He was an old man, but sturdily built, with
small thinking eyes, broad shoulders, broad forehead, longish face,
prominent cheekbones, and the rest covered under a beard, not very
thick. But white. I know who you must be. I know all that there is to
know. I am Brahma.
-3Much, much later. Rawan, or Ra, had feet of clay. But he was
handsome, of light complexion, with very light reddish brown hair, and
he was a charmer. His words seemed like magic. He would talk of
faraway places, exotic landscapes, plants, flowers, animals and birds.

|, 1423



The Blue Prince

He was a gifted singer and player of the lute. Looking at him, one was
left in no doubt as to why he was so popular among the ladies, whether
deva, manava, gandhara and yaksha.
He set up an ashram near Panchavati, and made sure that he was
seen by Sita, Ram and Laxman. He made no effort to establish any
contact with any one of them. But he made sure that while collecting
wood, carrying out yagna rituals, chanting mantra - just a little loud, or
going to the river, some one or other was able to catch a glimpse of him.
Bored, and mostly left to herself, Sita grew curious about the mysterious
neighbour, the one who was just keeping to himself. He was so incredibly
handsome, but so quiet, reticent, and so polite. On a chance encounter
or two, he just bowed, folded his hands, did not look up at Sita, and
stepped aside, as when the three of them were coming back from a
deer hunting expedition, something Ram had become increasingly, and
intriguingly, fond of lately.
* * *
They were a brother and a sister. The sister was a meek, delicate
beauty, and Laxman was often found stealing a glance in her direction.
Sita was watching. Always trained to see and listen. Ram was strangely
lost unto himself, still dealing, in his mind, with the violent episode in
Ayodhya, and the immediate aftermath, the constant pursuit, the ever
present fear of being attacked, or worse, of Sita being harmed. He was
obsessed with security, but was, however, oblivious of the harmless
looking brother sister duo residing not far away.
-4The Vangasamudra journey had not begun well. It was the turbulent
sea. Every passenger was sick.
The Sundarbans was going to get permanently flooded and its
inhabitants had decided to leave the place for good. Their habitat, hitherto
a beautiful place filled with sundari trees, was increasingly suffering
from high tides with their height and duration growing. Survival during
the high tide was very difficult and had started taking its toll on the men
and animals alike. The crop was ruined with so much standing sea
water. So the villagers had decided to gather their belongings and animals
and leave before the arrival of the next high tide that would forever

|, 1423

The Blue Prince

extend the sea up to what was still a landmass.

The villagers were unaccustomed to the salt sea. The ship was
lurching dangerously. Monstrous mountains of clouds started descending
on to the sea and soon the sea was choking under their weight. A strong
gale lashed the ship and it swayed violently on the agitated waters. The
ominous lightning would be followed by a clap of thunder as if the Great
God Odin had started his most fearsome and terrible dance, completely
devoid of reason and proportion. The ship was not well covered for
such contingencies; some of the cages which were not well fastened or
not fastened at all slid into the sea. Scared shrieks of people and animals
getting mercilessly smashed by the monstrous waves which hit the ship
like a mountain range launching an attack got lost in the frenzied roar of
the waters. There was no escape. The ship was like a petal of lotus
caught between elephants stampeding through an unfortunate pond.
Astrologists had warned about the time of starting the journey. But
the captain did not pay heed to such sooth-sayers; he was more
concerned about timely delivery of the goods it was carrying. The goods
were mostly from Bharatvarsha, some of it imported from the west,
and were destined for the Far East. Goods changed hands between
ships too. As the ship had sailed for barely seven days, somewhere
along the coast of Myanmar, on the mouth of River Iravaddy, the weather
had taken a strange turn, but it was not completely unexpected. All
deckhands were struggling to save as many things and as many lives as
possible. Sails had been rolled up. Oarsmen were furiously pulling, and
trying to drain water out of the ship. A loud crack was heard. A mast
had crashed, taking along with it two of the bravest sailors. It was
becoming clear that the storm was going to be the last thing all of them
would see in their lives. The lives of about seven hundred men, women,
children and as many animals were in grave danger. The cyclone turned
into a hysterical witch, roaring and moaning. Or it was as if a celestial
bull had stepped on a burning piece of wood and was stomping around
in pain, smashing everything coming in its way.
* * *
Bisnu was missing. Here nobody called him Bizonu. It became
Bisnu. In the roar, the din and the thunder, no one noticed Bisnu sitting
at the far edge of the ship, literally hanging from it, precariously balancing

|, 1423



The Blue Prince

himself on the ropes, yet sitting and playing his flute. Rather than a sad
song embracing an imminent death, it was a shrill note, sounding like the
cry of a trapped bird. Or of an eagle? And then, with a mighty jerk the
ship stabilized, straightened into normal position, smoothly riding the
crest of the waves as if an invisible power was holding it in its hands. In
the intermittent lightning, the people saw that a swarm of about ten
thousand dolphins and whales as big as the ship itself had surrounded it,
and indeed were holding it steady. In a few hours the ship was out in
calm waters; the clouds had vanished and a clear moon shone bright in
the sky as if nothing had happened. The dolphins were carrying back
men, women and animals who had gone overboard. They were pulled
aboard, resuscitated and revived.
It was an unforgettable, eerie spectacle in the moonlight. Bisnu
was playing his flute emitting a strange sound, and there was a swarm
of dolphins, led by a single enormous whale, nearly as big as the ship some said it was even bigger - circling the ship, leading it out of the
deathly storm, and then they vanished after coming near Bisnu, almost
touching him with a leap. The night passed. The storm passed. And the
ship docked ashore. The dolphins, the great fish were nowhere to be
seen. The captain, still quite shaken, fell at Bisnus feet. Bisnu, in a
borrowed yellow dhoti, hair dishevelled after the nights struggle, looked
like a strange portrait in blue. The resplendent blue sky, more clean and
bright after the nights rain, the calm blue sea and the gentle morning
sea breeze all provided an ethereal backdrop, providing a stage for the
miracle mans blue persona. The hill boy, having grown up amid hardships
in the snow and desert, had matured into a rescuer of the hundreds on
the water where all the rivers, fed by the snow and the rain, merge into
the sea. There was a hushed silence, and then a murmur, and then a
roar: the entire crew, the passengers, all repeated the captains act and
fell at Bisnus feet. There was no need to state the obvious. Bisnu was
their leader, for he was their saviour. And thus they landed ashore.

|, 1423

Alokparna Das

The Human Face of Ravan

Come Autumn Navaratri and the effigies of Ravan spill out of the
narrow lanes of Titarpur in West Delhi. With every household in the
area making Ravan, Kumbhakarna and Meghnad for Dusshera
celebrations, demon-dolls of every colour, shape and size line up on the
main Najafgarh Road causing traffic congestions. Stuck in one such
traffic jam last year and surrounded by Ravans all around, I looked at
the Asura kings curly moustache, broad lips, big teeth and bulging eyes.
He hardly looked menacing. Instead, his appearance seemed somewhat
comical, reminding me of a story that my father told me years ago to
teach Bangla punctuation.
In brief, the story had a clumsy Ravan asking his court chronicler to
write an invitation to another king for a feast. The letter began
thus: Shunechhi aapni ekta aasto pantha khaayite oti bhalobashen
(I have heard that you like to eat a whole goat). After the invitation
letter was drafted, Ravan decided to proof-read it and added his own
punctuations: Shunechhi aapni ekta aasto pantha. Khaayite oti bhalo
(I have heard that you are fool. Taste really good!). Obviously, the
other king didnt accept this invitation.
The other Ravan that came to my mind was the pompous king of
Sukumar Rays Lakshmaner Shaktishel. The 1911 play has an
irreverent tone and a humourous take on the situations and characters
of Ramayana, be it Ram, Lakshman, Hanuman or Ravan.
Ravan, the anti-hero of the epic, has been a topic of various
discourses since several decades. While Dravidian ideologues like M S

|, 1423


The Human Face of Ravan

Purnalingam Pillai in the 1920s and E V Ramasami in the 1950s have

used Ravan as a symbol of Dravidian resistance to what they perceived
as Aryan aggression led by Ram, there are critics and historians who
view the epics chief ogre as a tragic hero. Beginning with the
original story written by Valmiki, writers across languages have
explored multiple dimensions of Ravans character. In fact, certain
mythological legends portray Ravan in a humorous manner. In Himachal
Pradeshs Baijnath, famous for the exquisitely carved 13th century
Shiva temple, the legend is that pleased with his penance, Lord Shiva
gave Ravan a lingam to be carried from Mount Kailash to Lanka.
However, there was a rider that if Ravan put the lingam down on
the ground, he would be unable to lift it again. On his way back home,
Ravan felt an urgent need to answer natures call and handed the
lingam to a shepherd, who, in turn, found it too heavy and hence, put
it down. Ravan returned to find the lingam immovable and failed in his
mission to carry it to Lanka. The Shivlingam is believed to be
enshrined in the Baijnath temple. Incidentally, Baijnath is one of
those few places where no Ravan effigy is burnt to mark Dusshera, as
local residents believe that it would bring them bad luck.
Notwithstanding that Ravan represents the evil (just as Ram
embodies the good), popular culture particularly the visual media
has also brought out the humorous side of the villains persona. In fact,
some advertisements and visual propaganda have given Ravan a
humorously human face, besides the 10 he already has. In many such
ads, Ravan is a mischievous child, and the humour rests on his managing
to balance his 10 heads.
In the Good Knight ad, the mother and child are doing a balancing
act of making sure all the heads are in place and the mosquito repellent
is effective.
In ads promoting McDonalds Happy Price Menu and Sunfeasts
Yippee Noodles, the emphasis of the marketing message is satisfying
the consumer (in these cases a child) more than once or at multiple
There are other ads where the humour again rests on Ravans
many heads. While the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta ad with catchline Youll
do anything to drive it, shows Ravan cutting off his heads to fit into the
new car, the Star Den television cable network ad shows the king of

|, 1423

The Human Face of Ravan

Good Knight



|, 1423



The Human Face of Ravan


Lanka enjoying 10 different programmes simultaneously, so much so

that he decides to skip the battle.
In the past too, Ravans comic avatar found place in comic books
and greeting cards: Take a look at the cover of an Amar Chitra Katha
where Ravan is being carried away by Vali or a Dusshera greeting card
that shows Ravan crying after losing his nine heads.

Amar Chitra Katha


|, 1423

The Human Face of Ravan

Comics and greeting cards, just like advertisements, do not address

a particular community. They are meant for a large audience, and since
their launch coincides with festive occasions, these usually harp on the
lighter moments of life. They are more a source of entertainment than
a vehicle of philosophical sermons. In fact, there is an interesting
relation between religious symbols and advertising. For believers in
any religion, perhaps the most challenging thing about ads is the way
they proclaim a global community, based on common enthusiasm for a
consumer product. In that sense, ads bring together people the way
religion did in the past centuries. An ad for an American steak-house
chain, for instance, mixes the religious music of Bach with its
slogan, if steaks were a religion, this would be its cathedral. This is
not to say that brands and ads do not use conventional messages of
religious festivals like Dusshera. RNB Global, a Bikaner-based private
university, and Syska LED are some of the companies that have used
Ravan to depict ills like corruption and pollution which affect the daily
lives of people across India.
Recently, Idea Cellular used the concept of good versus evil in an
ad created by Lowe Lintas. The film featured a taxi driver, who finds a
fancy mobile phone left behind by a passenger. When the phone rings,
the driver disconnects the call. He shuts the handset off and is about
to pull the SIM card out, when the headlights of another taxi dazzle
him. He undergoes a change of heart and puts the phone back together.
When it rings, he picks up, and tells the caller to take the phone
from Paradise Hotel. As he walks home amid festivities, a voiceover
says, Apne andar ke Ravan ko jalana ek achcha idea hai (Burning
the Ravan within us is a good idea).
Similarly, last years Bajaj CT100 Khushiyon ka jackpot ad by
Leo Burnett highlighted the joy of a family on buying a new motorbike.
It is common to buy a new vehicle during festivals. The ad opens in
a small town where a family breaks a coconut to welcome the new
bike. The young son of the family breaks away from the ritual to witness
the burning of Ravan effigies. Unable to find a spot, he is dejected. His
father comes to the rescue and takes him on a bike ride. Together they
go to a nearby hilltop in order to watch the Dussehra celebrations. The
ad merges consumerism with cultural ethos. After all, as the head of
the family the father is not just supposed to be the provider of comforts

|, 1423



The Human Face of Ravan

(in the shape of a new bike) but also someone who makes sure children
inculcate the right kind of values (represented in the burning of Ravan).
There is something special about the festive season mouth-watering
aroma of sweets, cacophonic noise of drums, glittering decorations,
loud colours, and loads of discounts. Advertisers have built an entire
industry around our emotions and festivities. They use psycho-graphics,
a study of our values, emotions and lifestyle to recognise the
psychological triggers that tempt and motivate us to spend. After all,
buying new clothes and household items have a socio-religious
significance attached to them.
The younger generation, however, finds Ram Navami and Dussehra
holidays as excuses for partying, and their attitude to the epic
characters is not reverential like the awe that calendar gods evoked
in the earlier generations. The Ramayana interests them more as a
fantasy. In the 1980s, the Ramayana came to our drawing rooms through
its televised version. More than 20 years later, Ravan continues to be
relevant even in the age of reality TV, which finds him selling
headache-relief ointments, killing warriors in online games and
featuring in animation videos. Needless to say, Ravan is a delight for

|, 1423

The Human Face of Ravan

any animator, thanks to his sheer exaggeration 10 heads, loud

booming laughter, and so on. The promise of action in mythology makes
for an engaging game play. Zapak Digital Entertainment Limiteds
gaming portal has a Ravan game, where the player has to conquer
three worlds of humans, demons and the celestial to reach the golden
palace of Lanka. One April Fools day an animation viral video, for
instance, showed Ravan kidnapping Rakhi Sawant by mistake.
A cheeky visual communication may be applauded if it does not
hurt core human values. However, in a country where crimes against
women hit headlines on a daily basis, a Ravan lying between nine
smiling women in the Axe perfume ad does disservice to the cultural
message of Ravan-dahan every Dusshera.
Creators of this ad are obviously trying to say that its funny or cool
to be a Ravan and people wanting to be Ram is pass. Released a
decade ago, during Dusshera festivities, the ad continues to be debated
by those concerned about ethical representations in advertisements.
In conclusion, one can safely say that the ten-headed monarch of
Lanka continues to fascinate the practitioners of visual media, particularly
those creating advertisements. Ravan in our ads is both the archetype
evil as well as the symbol of the wicked meeting his end, and the
beginning of joyous celebrations and festivities.

Goswami Indra and Baruah Manjit ed: Ravana: Myths, Legends and Lore.
B.R Publishers, New Delhi, 2009.
Sarkar Amal, A Study of Ramayanas, Riddhi India, Calcutta, 1987.
Frith, K. Ed. Undressing the Ad: Reading Culture in Advertising. New York:
Peter Lang, 1998
Basu, Partha Pratim, Chanda, Ipshita. Ed. Locating Cultural Change: Theory,
Method, Process. New Delhi: Sage, 2011
Williamson, Judith, Decoding Advertisements: Ideology and Meaning in
Advertising. London, New York: Marion Boyars, 2005
(Images : Alokparna Das)

|, 1423




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-f Genesis N & , BigBang / L Z - cosmology
: &
- &
M f ...The most important need of
the age was for an immortal epic, a majestic ship fit to cross the sea of time...

|, 1423

-- {j L

therefore, though the Mahabharata may not be history in the modern western
definition of the term, it is, nevertheless, a receptacle of the historical records
which had left their impress upon the living memory of the people for ages.'1

ML 26 5G ,
26 &
, &
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p : & ij :y
Ly a
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q +
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& -ML
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26 , {j

La 26 ,

A Vision of India's History (pg. 38), Rabindranath Tagore, Visva-Bharati Publication (1951, 2002), Kolkata.

|, 1423



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|, 1423

-- {j L

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& 2


Maha Bhashya (II.7) by Patanjali and Vishnu Purana (Part III/Chapter 3) cited
in the introduction (pg. 6) to the Ramayana of Valmeeki (Madras 1910) by C.R.
Sreenivasa Ayyangar

|, 1423



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|, 1423

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|, 1423



-- {j L

| , | , c e Z ,
Z + +3

Epic poets the world over are men singing the glory of other men - armed
men,... out of the thirty-eight basic things upon which most epic narratives of the
world are based, only nine are associated with women... There is little they can
do there other than get abducted or rescued, or pawned, or molested, or humiliated
in some way or other....'4

, -
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q , /
M q S

{j y
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{j , , ... ...
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M ,
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q {j e

f [. 80 94]

When Women Retell Ramayan, Navaneeta Dev Sen, Manushi (Issue 108). Presented at the Sita Symposium held by Columbia University, New York.

|, 1423

-- {j L

, - ,
... -, -... ...
... /
, M ij , 26
: : :
2014 Sita's Sister,

c XS 26, , 'soldier does not take his wife to
the battlefield' Q

S e,
, M -& -ML

26, S

S- - Z ,
'Today, in this room, we have talked about all sorts of dharma - of the father
and the sons, of the king and the princes, of the Brahmin and the Kshatriya, even
of the wife for her huband. But is there no dharma of the husband for his wife?
No dharma of the son for his mother? Is it always about the fathers, sons and
brothers? Everything, Gurudev has been personal here, every single political
decisiom. It's about the father, the brother, the sons, but pray, what about the
mothers, the wives? But yes, it is their dharma to follow their husbands' decisions
and duties.'5.

: : :
{j - & [&-] ML

Sita's Sister by Kavita Kane, Rupa Publication, 2014.

|, 1423



-- {j L

e f L
'...India has never forgotten that Rama-chandra was the beloved comrade of
a chandala; that he appeared as divine to the primitive tribes,... His name is
remembered with reverence because he won over his antagonists as his allies and
built the bridge of love between Aryan and non-Aryan.'

, MG
-{j &ML -26- MG 7276 6
f ,
'During the succeeding period of conservative reaction, an attempt was made
to suppress this evidence of Rama-chandra's liberality of heart in a supplemental
canto of the epic, which is an evident interpolation; and in order to fit it with
the later ideal, its votaries did not hesitate to insult his memory by having it in
their rendering of the episode that Rama beheaded with his own hands an
ambitious Sudra for presuming to claim equal status in the attainment of spiritual

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[1353, 1369]

|, 1423

-- {j L

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|, 1423



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, M

Bhusundi Ramayana and its influence on the Medieval Literature by Dr. Bhagwati
Prasad Singh (Delivered at the International Seminar on Ramayana Tradition in
Asia, New Delhi, on 10th December 1975)

|, 1423

-- {j L

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|, 1423



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|, 1423

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|, 1423


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|, 1423

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|, 1423



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|, 1423


= ?

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|, 1423


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|, 1423

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|, 1423



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|, 1423



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|, 1423


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|, 1423

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(William Radice)
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s f
+ ^ S
S +L a ('It
cost me many a tear to kill him'), ,
anti-hero A
"the nearest equivalent to the Aenid
in modern Indian literature".

i ...

|, 1423



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|, 1423

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|, 1423



X c

g ,
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I hate Ram
and his rabble, ,

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2] M

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|, 1423

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|, 1423



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|, 1423



s U g
"... Divine Raj, the kingdom of God."
Wikipedia s (http://lordrama.co.in/rama-rajya.html).
s c {j [ L
a , e e
] [MG, 73 ] 5
province, country, kingdom, area field
MG [10 ]
, i ,
M, +,
U : , , ^
5 ,
, [
], Malnutrition, Child Mortality, Air Pollution, Drought, Food
Scarcity, Accident, Disaster
S p S

, Q ,

|, 1423


accessible MG 5
[ p ,


, p
a Z ,
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L ^
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[ ,
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[ occupational structure- stagnancy
], M Honour killing-

[MG, 43 ] ^
g -- qq
[9-10 ] ^ report
q /corroboration
, M , action
Charge-sheet q judgment execution!
La , La
c e ,

|, 1423

M q , g
, :
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, f
[81 ]
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|, 1423



M , -- - P 5
A ,
aa y ,
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(administration) [] La []
Q - 7
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q 26
(Financial Policy)
e - ~
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26 , &5 Z ,
26 e
Sn e 26
a S [ :
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MG (Principles of governance) g

[ A , 439 ]

|, 1423

Q ( & c (
- , S

(technology transfer) ?
(infrastructure building)
Q -g-
y i ,
c g
[ s c ]
[ c
~ Q ]
S (maintenance of the status quo)
, -
, V '...to typify and establish the things
on which the social idea and its stability depend, truth and honour,
the sense of Dharma, public spirit and the sense of order. ... (the
great and supreme civic virtue in the eyes of the ancient Indians,
Greeks, Romans, for at that time the maintenance of the ordered
community, not the separate development and satisfaction of the
individual)... In that he was at one with the moral sense of all the
antique races, though at variance with the later romantic individualistic
sentimental morality of the modern man who can afford to have that
less stern morality just becuase the ancients sacrificed the individual
in order to make the world safe for the spirit of social order." (All
India Magazine, March 2004, pp. 21-22) S

Q- G
, S X
, a, L

|, 1423



d , 5 ,
26 c

La ,

, ,
e , aS
c [MG
107-110 ] e ,
c L , S I-I ,
c S wS
- Sn e

a q,
g - mass suicide
: : :
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, , L

26i A &

q ,
M -
-, -R, ,

|, 1423

Plato Republic + Atlantis [y ]
^ e
, M , , 5
Greek L s
The Indian Journal of Economics (October 1985) , Adam
Smith, David Ricardo, J.S. Mill Classical
(Stagnant economy)
(production) KI
Karl Marx ZiZ i i
(Modes of Production) M (Economic Base) (Superstructure)
, , , , superstructure,
M, base e
, Q (The Dictatorship of the
Proletariat) KI i "the
State shall ultimately wither away"
L Classical Economics
Marxism- 5 , R
Asiatic Mode of Production
+ - c L

|, 1423



The Last Word

The Ramayana
- history, text, theatre, art, folk story, metaphor
Narayani Gupta, Delhi

I have to be honest and confess that the only Ramayana I have

read was an English one, written for children by C. Rajagopalachari
(there was a twin volume on the Mahabharata). That was some 65
years ago. As a child, the Ramayana meant certain specific things a
postcard of a Ravi Varma painting with a handsome Rama, Lakshman,
a lovely Sita and a friendly Hanuman. It meant an eagerly-anticipated
performance by the Bharatiya Kala Kendra at Ferozeshah Kotla during
Dashehra. It brings back memories of lying on a khatiya under the
stars, on still summer nights, listening to my sister retailing to me what
she had read earlier in the day in Ezhuthacchans Ramayanam. An
absorbing story, a lovely picture, an exciting play, the comfort of an
unending bedtime story ... all part of a wonderful world that has gone
forever, to be replaced by glitzy restless theatricals on the little screen
The essays in this issue of Hindol indicate how much can be drawn
out of the various Ramayanas, and how the characters and concepts
in it have become timeless metaphors. There are innumerable variations
in details of journeys, and in the portrayal of the characters, but the
names remain the same. This must be the case with so many stories
that are found in folklore as well as in sophisticated classics. Another
indication that our subcontinent is a multiverse.
When I say timeless metaphors, I marvel at the time-span of
Ramayana texts from the 4th century BCE to the 19th CE. Well over
2000 years. Which can lead us to think about the manner in which
Indias history is periodised.

|, 1423

The Last Word

Sophocles, Euripides and Aeschylus, the Greek playwrights whose

works have survived, are roughly contemporary with Valmiki. Their
work was brought to public notice again in the 15th century CE (what
textbooks label the Renaissance), at the same time as the European
vernaculars began to develop their own literatures. It was at that time,
too, that the Bangla Ramayana of Krittibas, the Hindi one of Tulsidas,
the Farsi one by Badayuni, and the Malayalam one by Ezhuthachan
(derived from the Telegu one?) were written. Earlier, in the 12th century,
the patronage of the Chola rulers had led to Kambar writing the
Ramayana in Tamil.
The modern period in European history is treated as beginning
in the 15th century, and one of the markers is the rise of the vernaculars
as literary languages, and the translation of the Bible into European
languages. This could be used for India as well, instead of treating
colonial conquest as inaugurating the modern period. The History
of India by Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund adopts a
different periodisation from the one used in our schools and colleges early (till the 6th century), medieval (till the 16th) and modern
thereafter. The Mughal and the Vijayanagar empires can be seen as
the equivalents of the Bourbon and Tudor ones.
The Ramayana celebration the Ram Lila and the Dashehra
enactments, patronized by the state, in north India and Vijayanagar,
were aspects of state patronage of culture. And the Ram Lila grounds
in Delhi were used for the performance in Mughal times. The Ramnagar
version, when the little town becomes a map of India and Srilanka,
has resonances with the passion-play at Oberammergau, which began
in the 16th century, as did the Ram Lila in north India. The Mughal
emperors not only attended the performances, but each of them
commissioned his personal illustrated copy of the Ramayana in Farsi
(23 of these are extant).
The dates of the events in the Ramayana are uncertain, and
archaeology for that time is impossible. What is possible is to move
forward to the next millennium, trace movements of people from the
12th century, and delineate different ecologies. From this time, people

|, 1423



The Last Word

ventured further afield on the journeys or circuits of pilgrimage promoted

by the bhakti and sufi cults. Communities of pilgrims coalesced,
narrated stories, and generated songs of great beauty. If the texts of
the Ramayana in different languages and of different times were to be
compared, it would be interesting to identify different geographies (so
beautifully described in Kalidasas Raghuvamsha) and the growing
familiarity with different regions. The Ramayana is, when you come to
think of it, the story of a pre-ordained journey.
Geo-piety and temple-building went together. And as temples were
built and expanded, they became centres of learning - they promoted
the teaching and recitation of texts, and the enactment of the epics in
exacting classical genres like Kathakali.
The Ramayana can also be enjoyed as a theme in visual art, again
often due to the patronage of temple trusts. The charming variations,
from sculpture to folk-art to miniatures, would make an interesting
study. More recently, Ravi Varmas paintings generated images of
Ramayana episodes which, reproduced in bulk, became available all
over India and, framed as calendars, were carefully hung high on the
walls of hundreds of homes.
Valmikis composition and the contemporary plays in Greece are
both timeless in their appeal, but there is a difference - the latter did
not generate any vernacular versions (translations, yes) or inspire art
and musical composition. This is the greatness of this epic that it has
so many variations and expressions that each of us has the freedom to
take from it what one wants. My daughter, when she was a little
girl, said emphatically that she would call it not the Ramayana but
the Sitayana. And this freedom of choice is the essence of our

(Narayani Gupta)

|, 1423