TODAY -

Some lessons from Ramayan

Oinam Nabakishore Singh *



Epics, scriptures, poems, fables, folk tales and many more are written to educate generation after generation of the values, ethics and lofty ideals to be imbibed and internalized by individuals and societies so that there is peace and dharma (righteousness).

Ramayan, attributed to the great sage, Valmiki, is full of anecdotes and conversations illustrating the right path and action in the course of life. Of course, it also portrays characters like Ravan and Manthara, who are embodiments of bad qualities. Anybody exposed to Ramayan stand to learn many lessons, which remain true over ages and useful.

In Manipur, some fifty years back, there was the tradition of narrating Ramayan to the audience, young or old, rich or poor, men or women on several occasions-auspicious events like Swasthi Pooja, Mera Tha, organized story telling for days, etc. I had listened to such story telling in my childhood. The stories were not only interesting, but they were also full of lessons on desirable values including performance of duties as expected of any person on account of birth.

Some of the anecdotes in Ramayan and their associated lessons are being shared. The underlying lessons and their understanding are subject to interpretation. When the king Dasharath of Ayodhya announced that his eldest son, Ram, heir apparent, would be crowned to be his successor, Manthara, maid of Kaikeyi, was filled with jealousy and ill wills. She somehow convinced Kaikeyi that the latter would become a dasi, maid of Ramís mother, Kaushalaya when Ram was made the king of Ayodhya.

In fact, Kaikeyi loved Ram loved more than her own son, Bharat. On the suggestion and guidance of Manthara, who was her own maid since childhood, Kaikeyi used the two boons promised to her by Dasharath when she saved his life in a battle between gods and rakshasa. In fulfillment of the boons, Dasharath was made to make her son, Bharat to be his successor in lieu of Ram and exile Ram to the forest(vanvas) for fourteen years.

Ram, who was all prepared to be crowned as king was summoned by Kaikeyi and informed of the boons granted by the latter. At that moment, Ram was very calm and composed and did not have any emotion of anger, unhappiness or frustration. Rather, he was quite happy to learn that his younger brother, Bharat, would be the king. The exile to the jungle for fourteen years as per the wish of Kaikeyi was considered by Ram to be a good opportunity to meet learned saints in the jungle and acquire knowledge.

The personality of Manthara is looked upon as someone, who was mean and selfish. She, in order to convince Kaikeyi of her plan, used an imaginary and atrocious possibility. The lesson is that any evil person can poison the mind of anyone, who trusts him or her.One is required to analyze any advice by using the lens of morality, accepted norms, propriety and consequences.

One should convince oneself of the right course of action. The conscience of oneself with power of reflection and reasoning should decide the final decision. Here, we find Kaikeyi to be convinced by her maid, Manthara, without any opinion of her own. Being a mother, her emotions appeared to have overcome her senses of rationality and propriety.

One can also see weaknesses of Dasharath in respect of his queen, Kaikeyi. He promised two boons to her without thinking about the nature and consequences of the boons. Perhaps he trusted her too much. Another aspect is that Kaikeyi was said to be very beautiful and Dasharath was charmed by her. When Kaikeyi pretended to be in sorrow by wearing no jewellery and lying on the floor unlike a queen, Dasharath went overboard to console her and promised to grant any boon by invoking the name of his beloved son, Ram.

Such acts and commitment without having a second thought about the consequences of such promises by a king looked to be too naÔve. Ultimately, he had to pay with his own life and exile of Ram to forest for the promises made without thinking about possible consequences.

Another example of loyalty and love for brother is exhibited by Bharat and Lakshaman. Bharat refused to be crowned as king and he went to the jungle to request his brother, Ram to come back and discharge his duties as king of Ayodhya. On refusal by Ram to keep the promise of his father, Dasharath, Bharat ruled Ayodhya on behalf of Ram and he worshiped the footwear of Ram by keeping it on the throne.

Lakshman, brother from queen, Sumitra left his wife and accompanied Ram and Sita to the fourteen year Vanbas(exile to jungle) to serve them enduring all the hardships and dangers. It is, indeed, a great sacrifice and exhibition of selfless dedication by Lakshman to his brother. There are several other anecdotes, full of lessons for everybody.

One quality which stand out for us to appreciate is arrogance of Ravan, who abducted Sita by disguising as a saint. In Lanka, Ravan kept Sita in Ashoka Van(garden) and tried to convince her to become his queen by promising everything possible. Sita being devoted to Ram in thought and action wholeheartedly refused the offer from Ravan.

Vibhishan, younger brother of Ravan was on the side of Dharma(righteousness) and he tried to convince Ravan to return Sita to Ram and seek his forgiveness. Being angry and unable to accept Ram as superior being as explained by Vibhishan, the latter was thrown out from the palace of Lanka by Ravan. Queen Mandodari, wife of Ravan, too pleaded several times to return Sita to Ram in order to avoid devastation.

His great son, Meghanath and mighty Kumbhakarna too tried to convince Ravan to do the same to save the clan and Lanka. Ravan was, in fact, blinded by the lust for Sita and his arrogance after triumph over the three worlds including that of heaven. All including Ravan were killed in the battle with Ram and his sena.

Not open to advice from relatives, ministers and well-wishers, Ravan, who was endowed with boons from Brahma and Shiva, and had the whole universe at his command had to face defeat at the hand Ram, considered to be incarnation of Vishnu in human form to get rid of the former. The worst quality of Ravan was arrogance, which made him blind to all reasoning and understanding.

Had there been quality of humbleness with Ravan, no one could defeat him. It was his arrogance that led to his end. There are several other qualities and values which may be enjoyed by reading or listening or watching videos of Ramayan. It is advisable for all to enjoy the amrita of Ramayan by frequently keeping in touch with the great epic.


Views expressed are personal.


* Oinam Nabakishore Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on January 27, 2019.



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