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Ramayana: A story behind story!
Mystery of Lord Rama!
Rama is hero of ancient epic Ramayana and is worshipped by the masses as seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Valmiki is credited with authorship of Ramayana. The Ramayana suggests Valmiki being contemporary of Rama. Seeta, wife of Rama, had secured shelter at his hermitage of Valmiki when Rama had abandoned her doubting her character.
It seems that story of Rama has evolved in at least four phases. In the earliest period, before 8th century BC, it was just a heroic ballad detailing war between Rama and Ravana.
In second phase it was turned to a small epic “Paulatsya Vadh” (killing of Ravana) in which too war was the major subject.
Third phase consisted composition of second to sixth parts of the Ramayana in which the most of the story was shaped, right from exile of Rama till his victory over Ravana. This body of the epic shows Rama mostly in human form.
In fourth phase, that might have been sometime between second to fourth century AD, first and last parts were composed and annexed to the original body of Ramayana. These two parts portray Rama in divine form.
This makes it impossible to determine whether Rama was a historical figure or not. In all probabilities Rama seems to be a fictional personality the way he is portrayed in the present epic. Still the epic has its historical role in present Hindu religion. Rama is revered by most of the Hindus for his ideal character and divine qualities.
However Ramayana has been a subject of criticism as well as debate over construction and the character of Rama that has many contradictions and humanly flaws. Even purpose of interpolations and additions to original body of Ramayana has given ways for many speculations. Let us discuss some of them from new angle:
Was Valmiki contemporary to Rama?
First part of Ramayana, Balkanda, narrates us a story how Valmiki was inspired to compose this epic. The story goes like this:
“When Seer Narada visited hermitage of Valmiki, Valmiki asked him a question: ‘O greate sage Narada, who is most virtuous, valiant, religious, truthful and able to cause terror in the hearts of the Gods when angry on this earth?’ Narada answered, ‘The virtues you have mentioned are hard to find in any single person. However there is Rama of Ikshvaku clan who is an ideal person.’ Valmiki requested to Narada to narrate deeds of Rama. Narada happily did so and later Valmiki composed Ramayana in lyrical form.”
The beginning of the story itself is baffling. It shows Valmiki did not know Rama at all! Had it been the case there wouldn’t be any need to ask recite biography of Rama.
Ramayana in later parts makes him an active character in Rama story, being patron of Seeta and her twin boy’s. Thus making him contemporary to Rama!
This makes one speculate that either story is false. And yes, not only one, but both the stories are created in later times by incorporating new two parts (first and last part) to original 5 parts of Ramayana. Linguists and scholars in majority have accepted this addition.
The latter addition was done with following secret purposes:
1. To adorn Rama with divinity that hardly can be found in main body of original five parts.
2. To make him born from semen (Payas) of Vedic Seer Rishyashringa, thus suggesting biological father of Rama was a Vedic Brahmin.
3. To propagate supremacy of the patriarchal social order where women treated secondary to male counterpart. Seeta was abandoned only on a doubt over her purity expressed by an ordinary citizen. Chastity of the women should be beyond doubt or could be expelled by husband was the message this story delivered.
4. In first part, Rama is shown protecting fire sacrifices conducted by Vedic seers from destructive Asura’s and Raksasa’s, thus making Rama savior of Vedic religion.
5. The story of Shambuka, a shudra, appears in last part in which Rama is shown assassinating him just because he was conducting Tapa , a Vedic ritual reserved only for the Vedic people. The story was created to prohibit Shudra’s from practicing any Vedic ritual.
6. Through Ramayana it was attempted to establish that Vedic culture extended to southern parts of India because of the advent of Rama.
There are many other points in the whole story that can be discussed on similar grounds.
However it makes clear Ramayana was used solely to elevate Vedic’s to ultimate conquerors over Non Vedic people through the epic. This also was to establish protection of Vedic rituals was a divine duty and thus of all other ordinary people.
Valmiki couldn’t have been contemporary of Rama looking at the various phases Ramayana has undergone through the centuries.
If looked carefully we can clearly see the main purpose of Ramayana is to show cultural conflict of those times between Vedic’s and non-Vedic Shaivait people.
Ramayana as a tool helped Vedic people to play a great psychological warfare showing victory of Vedic over Non-Vedic at the hands of Divine. And this worked out well!
Some ancient obscure Rama of ballads was so cleverly used to play a divine role in epic to successfully spread moral supremacy of the Vedic religion is a thing highly hard to achieve otherwise!
If we carefully study the story of Ramayana there is actually nothing special about it. In a way it is one liner. How exiled prince frees his abducted wife from the custody of enemy. That’s it!
But the overall portrayal goes in such a clever manner that it makes one overlook lacunae’s forcing one believe Rama, an incarnation of the Lord and all his deeds morally correct!
Where was Ravana’s Lanka?
It is faith of Hindu’s that present Sri Lanka and Ravana’s Lanka are one and the same. Setu Samudram project is stalled by Hindu activists by raising serious objection that Government will be destroying the man-made ancient heritage, the bridge, built by Lord Rama and his monkey aides, if project started!
But the main question needs to address is where was Ravana’s Lanka, if at all it existed?
Unbiased scholars have given due thought to this question in recent past. I too have my little contribution to support their theory that can be put down as under:
1. If studied Ramayana carefully, a startling truth appears that Lanka of Ravana was not present Sri Lanka, as the course of Rama’s entire travel by every count does not cross over 450 kilometers from his capital to so called Lanka.
Present Sri Lanka is thousands of miles apart from Ayodhya.
2. According to Sardar Madhavrao Kibe, Lanka must have been situated in the Vindhya mountain ranges somewhere in Chattisgarh region. He has meticulously compiled the scattered references left in Ramayana itself to make his theory.
3. According to Dr. H. D. Sankalia, a famous archeologist, too support Mr. Kibe stating Lanka was in Vindya mountain ranges. He also states that Lanka was not an island, but a land beyond some lake.
4. There is no mention anywhere of sea-shore in Ramayana while describing Lanka. Also Lanka is not called an island anywhere in Ramayana. There also is no mention of Rameshvaram anywhere at all.
5. There still are tribes in Chattisgarh region those identify them as descendents of Ravana and worship him.
6. The trees mentioned in the epic are only found in Vindhya region and not in southern India at all!
Considering above points present Sri Lanka could not be Lanka of Ramayana. The myths have been created to achieve major but hidden objectives those are explained above.
So Ramayana, no matter how sacred it is labeled, the story has base of certain socio-religious objective downplayed but so obvious! The objective so far has been a tremendous success. Through Rama a culture was forced and preached that never ever was a part of majority of the people. People fell for the ideal character that so innocently was being presented before them…they overlooked what was being preached and stressed through him and his story!
The cultural war was fought by Vedic’s through this epic to achieve superiority over non-Vedic, i.e. Shaivait people, real Hindu’s.
Here let us not forget Ravana is shown as a great devotee of Lord Shiva who was killed at the hands of, protector of fire sacrifice of Vedic’s, Rama!
Fact is Ramayana heavily corrupted Hindu minds through superficially innocent story! Vedic religion got attached to Shaivait religion keeping Vedic supremacy intact!
Not that all religious wars are fought on battlegrounds or in preaching rooms…just write a wonderful epic like Ramayana and you have won them!