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Why I love ‘Ravan’ and ‘Raavan’?

June 20, 2010

I was in 8th standard, and we had this book on Ramayan as part of our course. It was a 200 page summary of the great epic, written in Hindi. I remember the day when I started reading it. It continued to rain throughout the day, late into night. We could not go out to play and I had no option but to keep reading the book. I finished it at about one in the morning. Everyone in the house was fast asleep.

I kept the book aside and went to bed. It was two in the morning and I was not getting any sleep. My mind wandered time and again to the great epic. After having read the Summary, I somehow was not able to see things in black and white – Ram as God and Ravan as Demon.

I surely would have faltered in understanding the great epic, or was the summary utterly inaccurate in it’s representation?

Next morning, I urged my mother to give me an accurate picture of the epic. I wanted her to read to me from the best translations she has gone through or get me a book. (My mother being MA in both English and Hindi had spent a lot of quality time reading through these historical marvels of literature). For the next few days, I spent time going through parts of Ramayana from another translation. The doubts remained and things became more shaded than before.

The fact that Shurpnakha after having mocked by both the brothers, ran to devour Sita, seemed distorted. What was wrong with Shurpnakha getting distressed after having gone to both Ram and Lakshman several times, after having so innocently fallen in love. But no wait, she had two big teeth, two horns on her head and was fat and ugly. She was evil. And Lakshman rightly cut her nose and the two brothers laughed at her as she ran helter skelter with her nose bleeding.

Sita was never touched or raped by the worst demon ever alive!!! Ravan had Sita with him and never did anything wrong with her. Infact he had asked the Rakshashis to keep her in one of the most beautiful gardens of Lanka and take care of her.

And then it is said, one morning when Ram was sitting in his chamber attending to his kingly duties, a spy came to him. His work was to disguise himself at night and to listen to what different persons said. The previous night he had heard some persons criticizing Sri Ram. It was his duty to tell the king whatever he had heard. He said to Ram, “Sire, the people of Ayodhya are full of praise for you. But there are some who do not speak well of one action of yours. ‘Queen Sita was a prisoner in Ravan’s palace. Ravan was the King of Rakshasas, and a wicked fellow. Therefore what of Sita. Who was his prisoner? Sri Ram was wrong in bringing her back.’ I have heard some persons speak like this.” Ram was greatly pained to hear this. He knew that Sita always thought only of him, and was very pure. But a king should always so conduct himself as to please and satisfy his subjects. That is the quality of a good king. Therefore Ram decided to give up Sita. Ram discarded her, banished her from the kingdom. Why did Ram do that? I wish I could understand.

Innumerable instances from within the epic, reduced the stark differences between Ram and Raavan. Both seemed human who did right things and also some wrongs. 

And for the same reason I believe I loved ‘Raavan’ by Mani Ratnam. A deeply thought about and well made movie. Enjoy the scenery and the philosophy, sympathize with the naxals and glorify the hidden past. I liked the second half of the movie more. If you neither agree with the philosophy nor sympathize with the tribals, you can watch it for the great piece of cinematography done by Santosh Sivan.

Coming back to Ramayan, the poem is beautiful and I can not help but worship the great poet Valmiki who has been rightly described as a cuckoo on the tree of poetry, singing sweetly. I think he did it purposefully. The epic is written in such a way to clearly highlight the great qualities of the ‘bad’ one and the bad qualities of the ‘great’ ones. It leaves for the readers to decide. And rightly so, Poet Valmiki, I have read was also a dacoit, theif and murderer before he was rescued by Sage Narada. The epic was left open and the translations have been skewed, skewed because they glorify the one sided view. The result has had massive impact on the lives of people and their ideology over many generations.

When I come to think of it, I think Mahabharat has had an equally distorting impact on me. How much do I rever, Karan and the more I read the translations, the more I was convinced about Yudhistra’s character, the character hidden so well under the veil of Dharma. 🙂 The same character which the poet so wanted to high-lighten… But more to that sometime later…

45 Comments leave one →
  1. June 20, 2010 17:09

    Lolz question Ramayana and Mahabharata ..You question the whole ideology and identity of Hindus and the Indians 🙂
    I hope there is no Shri Ram Sena or Shiv Sena warrior reading this post 🙂


    • Consty permalink*
      June 20, 2010 17:33

      Ideology of Hindus and Indians? I am deriving my logical conclusions from the epics, which I think were puposefully left open ended by the poets. u don’t agree? 🙂

      Rgrding Sena warriors, I too hope so.. I am so scared… 😦


  2. June 20, 2010 19:39

    Speaking from a woman’s point of view, I think both Ramayan and Mahabharat have set very bad examples..

    Even after forcing Sita into a penalizing test before accepting her after the war, Lord Rama left her in the woods after listening to the words of a drunk washerman.. Is this what we call ‘dharma’?? Was it the right thing to do anything to keep your kingdom happy?


  3. Sastry Nittala permalink
    June 20, 2010 20:05

    I love Indian philosophy for the very same reason as it doesnt state a right or wrong… It implicitly assumes a certain level of intelligence among its followers to decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong…


  4. Anonymous permalink
    June 20, 2010 20:08

    Damn right you should be scared!! Now just wait till a rock wrapped in saffron strikes the glass of your window when you are fast asleep. Jai Shree Ram….. Jai Jai Shree Ram…..


  5. Consty permalink*
    June 20, 2010 20:17

    @ Sastry – hmm true. I think that goes wid most of the stuff written
    @ Anshuman – The glass of my window is already broken… I thought u wer brave enuf to revolt openly 🙂


  6. Anonymous permalink
    June 20, 2010 21:20

    It wasn’t due to lack of bravery did I post anonymous….. It was so because I didn’t represent Anshuman in that comment….. I represented the moral police that you were scared of :P. Anshuman would have something else to say…


    • Consty permalink*
      June 20, 2010 21:29

      well i def got scared… more scared… and what wld Anshuman have to say


  7. Consty permalink*
    June 20, 2010 22:53

    @ Laddu – Yeah seems a nice read.. But no, I was talking about a book on Sita, her aspirations and life.. I think its by D. Patnaik.. Not sure though.


  8. June 21, 2010 00:29

    Agree with the post whole-heartedly. I have always wondered how people could call Ram as Maryaada Purushottam. The vows of marriage meant nothing to the dude, not onlly did he humiliate his wife by asking her to undergo the Agni Pariksha (esp since he did not give any proof of his purity even though he had also lived away from his wife). Some random person says some random thing about his wife and he decides to abandon her, pregnant, in a jungle full of carnivores. That too by deceit, Lakshman was asked to leave her in the forest and not bring her back. Sita, poor thing, was waiting in the forest for Lakshman to return. Not just that, he never bothered to find out what became of her, or of his children, who were his flesh and blood. Why is he never called Mard-aadha Purushunuttom.. (Praying the saffron brigade doesnt come across this) (Disclaimer: Views are personal. Not intended to hurt religious sentiments)


    • Consty permalink*
      June 21, 2010 11:10

      🙂 I did not realize that feministic views will bombard the post… Of course all the ladies are thoroughly pissed… I had forgotten the fact that she was left in the forest by deceit.
      Btw, she was left in Valmiki’s Ashram, not a forest full of carnivores.


      • June 22, 2010 12:56

        He he … Forest full of carnivores…
        i like this one


    • Achal Kothari permalink
      June 22, 2010 13:07

      Mard-aadha Purushunuttom …lolz 😀 😀


  9. limit permalink
    June 21, 2010 12:17

    I agree that Ram seems like a pretty horrible person in Ramayan. And Ravan does seem like a decent guy. One opinion is that Ramayan was written at the time of the Aryan influx into India and Ramayan was written to glorify the Aryans over the Dravidians. This would sort of explain why Raavan is in lanka and is a demon and all those artificially inserted bad qualities assigned to Raavan and his sister, his brothers etc. This sounded like a convincing explanation to me.


    • Consty permalink*
      June 21, 2010 12:33

      I agree, the epics, caste system were as a result of Aryan influx… What intrigues me is the fact that these epics could have been set straight forward to glorify Shri Ram. However, as you said ‘Ram does seem like a pretty horrible person in Ramayan. And Ravan does seem like a decent guy.’ This shows that Aryan influence was not all empowering, probably the writer (Valmiki) was a dravidian/ demon/ common man himself!


  10. Anshuman permalink
    June 21, 2010 12:59

    What we are discussing here dates long time back. Society back then used to be a lot lot different from the one we are living in today (Heck! it’s a lot different than the one I was born in). So I believe that most of the things can not be judged on their face value now. What we believe to be very logical and obvious today could have been beyond imagination in that society. Values have changed and beliefs have evolved in this long span of centuries. (And by society, I don’t mean the one Ram lived in. He probably didn’t even exist as we know him today. I mean the society this peace of fiction was written in). So many of the things we discuss here might not even be relevant in the modern world. For instance, equality/rights of women in those days might be as mythical as time travel is today. What possibly went wrong in all these centuries in between that the values of Ram that would have been respectable/worshiped back then, just remained worshiped and whole thing transformed into blind faith/idol worship.


  11. Anshuman permalink
    June 21, 2010 13:23

    Consider this hypothetical situation (may be 500 years down the line):

    Test tube babies have become the common procedure for child birth and every child on earth is born this way. Someone wrote a blog about this and people are discussing this in the comments.

    Person 1: Can you imagine, women in those days (referring to any time when embryo used to develop the natural way i.e. in the good old uterus) used to bear the child inside them for nine months and go through all the pain and trouble (and what not)

    Person 2: Ya….. men in those days were such MCPs to let this happen to their wives. I mean how could they do this to them….. all that pain for nine months…. Was it even worth to have a child going through all that horrendous pain and all….

    My point is that what we believe to be logical/reasonable/obvious today may not seem so even few years later. Several thousand years is a long long time compared to that.


    • Consty permalink*
      June 21, 2010 16:11

      @ Anshuman – Yes the times have changed and we have a completely different situation today. And you say it might have been right noble thing to leave your wife in the jungle without any hard core proof then, at that time. And that it is not right to condemn it today based on the beliefs we have been brought up against.

      But the case is different. It is not only us alone who condemn the act based on our logical reasoning, its not the today’s forward looking feministic junta who condemns it; but people from different sects have been doing so from the very beginning. There are examples in history from Kerala, TN. Recently I have heard that in Jainism it is believed that Raavan would be their next Tirthankara. And this is not new or recent, its a age old belief, coming from the times of Ramayana.

      Times do change but somethings that are right will remain right universally. 500 years from now, some people will do retort they way you have presented, but I am sure there will be others standing against and condemning it whole heartedly…


      • Anshuman permalink
        June 21, 2010 17:02

        At no point in my comment did I glorify/justify any specific act of Ram or condemn any of that of Ravan. My simple point was that matters might not have been as simple once put in the context as we are trying to judge them here. Personally I am not religious at all and do not adulate any of these historical figures such as Ram or Pandavas. No, not at all. I just wanted to convey that this might be a topic for a broader debate about the circumstances and practices back then which were a result of the social structure in that era. And as I said, things that seem to be very reasonable in the contemporary society might become a taboo in a matter of few years while our discussion dates back a several thousand years.


      • Anshuman permalink
        June 21, 2010 17:04

        A little errata in the last line: I mean matter of our discussion dates back a several thousand years.


      • Achal Kothari permalink
        June 21, 2010 18:19

        Just to clarify on what you said and to avoid any other conclusions that might lead to the Saffron brigade declaring a war against Jains 😛 ..

        The fact that Ravana would attain enlightenment in next birth does not mean that Raavan is being glorified here and in no way does it mean that Ram is considered to be on a lower plane ..infact Ram is supposed to have done his penance and liberated..The whole funda here is that one has to face the consequences of his or her action .. Be it Krishna, Rama or Raavan…Raavan though he kidnapped Sita had also done a lot of tapasya and penance and because of which he acquired a lot of knowledge and earned the right to be born as a tirthankar and get liberated in his next birth offcourse after suffering for the violence and war which was caused due to him ..

        No act of Ram is being condemned here ..What is right is right and what is wrong is wrong …Dharma is same for everyone, so are the rules and laws .. irrespective of times, irrespective of humans and irrespective of Gods


  12. RedViv permalink
    June 21, 2010 17:30

    Aren’t we confusing theology with philosophy ?

    Theology has evolved itselves into a form of sacred manifestation to explain things that aren’t scientific. Theology more or less has always left behind the patina of everything that is present.


  13. Consty permalink*
    June 21, 2010 19:07

    @ Anshuman – agreed… it does, and i am not justifying my inferences. Yes the inferences are subject to the questions u put 🙂
    @Achal – Yes, thanks for clarifications on the Jainism part.
    @ RedViv – Somehow am unable to relate…


  14. RedViv permalink
    June 22, 2010 11:20

    Philosophy is different from theology by the fact that philosophy is based on rational arguments and thoughts where as theology is based on myths and faith.

    Religious practices, faith, old church beliefs have all been either tampered with or polished to remove the glaring irregularities that would be looked down upon.
    Had Ravan survived and Ram perished, would Ram still be revered as a God ?

    Theological beliefs have got nothing to do with philosophy. Faith does not even reflect philosophy at a particular point of time in history.


    • Consty permalink*
      June 22, 2010 12:31

      Exactly agree with you… Philosophy will more or less remain same irrespective of advances in sciences or changes in society…

      And you said, Philosophy does not highlight the advantage of science at one point , it just talks abt values.. 🙂


  15. tarun permalink
    June 26, 2010 15:01

    @limit: yeah, quite possible. it is often believed that the story of ramayan may have never happened in India at all. Regions with pretty similar locations have been discovered in mid-asia (below modern mongloia). it is now believed that the aryans had fought a war in middle-asia centuries ago and when they came to india and settled down here they modified their stories to suit their new surroundings.

    later when they came in contact with dravidians (and probably fought and won) they imposed the same culture on them. since they could not out right kill their gods and practices they absorbed some of them but mostly modified their epics to suit the new demographics in which they could be the ruling class and the dravidians as the ruled.

    however it is quite possible that the actual teachings of lord ram may have been quite different. read a book recently which has a very different take..


  16. Alfie permalink
    October 26, 2010 11:33

    Consty has brought out what I have been confused about for ages.
    Not only the Ramayana but the Mahabharata as well.
    Seems like the logical rightful waring sides lost the war and were condemned for ever in history as the villians.
    Is it right to subdue your opponent by deceit? not follow the rules of combat?
    Maybe its time to rethink the theological aspect.


  17. Anshuman permalink
    October 29, 2010 14:21

    While reading this article ( today, it reminded me of this blogpost of yours and the debate that followed in the comments. Just wanted to share as it reflects exactly my sentiments in above comments 🙂


    • October 29, 2010 14:57

      Read it and I agree to almost everything he said except for one –

      “No, there are no universal or constant moral standards, as a rationalist one should be able to appreciate that and make that difference. Just like evolution of species, there has been evolution of morality too.”

      Yes, we can not punish a person who used to smoke in public bus 2 years ago, but it was as wrong on his part to have done that as it is now for a person to do it. How can we measure morality as per the laws human beings frame?

      To kill another fellow being was as wrong in stone age as it is now and will always remain so. To me, morality is universal and time independent.


  18. mayamystic permalink
    January 23, 2011 23:12

    One view says.. Luv was Ram’s son.. but Kush was Sita and Valmiki’s son, later clarified as twins..
    Have a look at ‘Sita sings the blues’ if you havent already. This film was banned for commercial release, over years earned popularity through internet publicity.


    • January 23, 2011 23:21

      oh is it! wow never heard of that. I have been wanting to see this musical/ video for long now. now that you have mentioned, will def watch it.


  19. Rahul Hasija permalink
    July 26, 2011 11:46

    Amit Bhaiya..I just loved what you wrote… The very same questions are in my mind that why Ram did so and is still considered god. Similarly, Krishna in Mahabharat using manipulative techniques to win the war…


    • July 26, 2011 22:07

      Rahul, thanks 🙂
      Yes, and they have confused me ever since the first time I read ramayana… I haven’t read Gita (or have not understood that) and do wish to understand the reasons behind Krishna’s acts. At times I have understood a few things he was trying to share while using the “manipulative techniques” and have found them to be eye openers..

      What I have understood is that these texts are not easy to understand.. they have a lot of deep meanings.. try to unravel that


  20. June 14, 2012 15:34

    I just came across your blog and was reading some good stuff and i read this and went like “Wow! Exactly what i wrote , though you put it more perfectly!


    • June 14, 2012 15:53

      Just read what you wrote.. The piece is so lively and fun.. straight out of heart as they say 🙂 which is why it seemed more beautiful than ‘perfectly’ written piece here.. keep writing


      • June 14, 2012 19:10

        Thanks a bunch! That comment inspired me and sure as hell is going to make me write more 😀 And btw i loved some of your posts! Totally Awesome!


  21. KAVYA MENON permalink
    June 20, 2012 00:28

    hey, am amazed… someone else too has the same heroes from these epics as myself.. have been through endless rants trying to explain how good and mis-interpreted both Ravan n Karnan are 🙂


  22. hobbyie permalink
    February 7, 2016 07:26

    Valmiki describes: Those mighty Asura’s set out from golden Lanka LIKE THE GODS leaving Amaravati 🙂


  23. hobbyie permalink
    February 7, 2016 07:32

    Ravana was a royalty in the epic. His father was sage Vishrava, grandson of Brahma and his mother was Kaikesi Brahma saves him when Yama was about to use Yamadand. Parashuram saves him when he was imprisoned by Karthavirya beacause Ravana was a brahmin. Rama was a dark or bluish black Kshatriya. Ravana was the higer cast. 🙂


  24. hobbyie permalink
    February 7, 2016 07:36

    There is a misconception that Ravava and team because they lost were tribals. We can say the other way round if we want. Rama came with a bunch of tribals and defeated the royal Ravana of golden Lanka 🙂


  25. hobbyie permalink
    February 7, 2016 07:42

    Asura’s were not dark. Danava WHITE AS THE CLOUDS … flew into the sky fighting the devas. Danava was a branch of Asura like Daitya and other subdivision. Danava is descendants of goddess Danu. Danu like in the Danu of Tautha De Danaan of celtic mythology.

    One-eyed Odin, father of Aeisir, son of Bhurr and grandson of Buri was swalloed by Fenrir.
    One-eyed Shukra teacher of Asura son of Bhrigu and grandson of Brahma was swallowed by Shiva.
    Tyr lost his hand to Fenrir
    Savitr lost his hand to Shiva.

    The whole world weeped when the generous Baldr fell. Norse awaits for the return of Baldr. Bali is the generous Asura king. Bali will return as Indra of next Manavantara.

    Some thing Asura are dark tribals and Aryans are white. It is way complicated than that.

    Vaivasvata Manu is the king of current humanity, #1 Aryan, south Indian king


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