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Ram and Ravana Have More In Common Than You Think : 5 Traits of the Anti-Hero Ravana That You Must Learn | Dussehra Special

An individual who questions principles, assumptions and values is always painted dark. I believe Ravan was one of them.

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Ravana
Have you ever noticed how we have more in common with Ravana than Lord Ram? Wikimedia

New Delhi, September 30, 2017 : Happy Dussehra or Vijaydashmi – the day we all rejoice the defeat of the evil Lanka Naresh Ravana by Shri Ram. But the essence of the festival is much more than plain revenge. We have been told since times immemorial that the festival symbolizes the triumph of truth over deception and good over evil; the victory of Lord Ram (who we must aspire to be) over the evil Ravana (who should be despised). But is that all there is to devour from the epic?

Lord Ram is held in reverence across the country and is seen as the ultimate role model. Popularly addressed as ‘Maryada Purushottam’, we have all, at a point, aimed to inculcate similar traits in our life.  But do we truly aspire to live a Ram-like life? If your answer to that question is in the affirmation, what are you doing to lead a life defined with such high morale and ideals?

We Have More In Common With Ravana Than Ram

‘Respect your parents’, ‘One must not steal’, ‘Do not lie’, ‘Honesty is the best policy’.

Despite being repeatedly exposed to these virtues, we are still dishonest.

Lord Ram, who we aspire to be, supposedly never lied.

The veneration with which the Raghuvansham looked up to his parents is not only impossible to trace in the present day, but also hard to emulate.

An epitome of ethical demeanor and exemplary disciple, are we as devoted as Ram?

This brings me to a larger question.

Have you ever noticed how we have more in common with Ravana than Lord Ram?

Maybe because it is easy to be a Ravana today, than be the ideal Ram.

So, this Dussehra, as people from all across India burn effigies of Ravana as part of the popular ritual, let us dig a little deeper and introspect what makes the anti-hero, Ravana so special and traits we can learn from his life,

What Can We Learn From Ravana

  1. Undying Faith and Devotion

Ravana performed an extreme repentance (or tapasya) to appease Shiva that lasted for tens of thousands years.

During his atonement, Ravana sacrificed his head for the sake of Shiva and chopped it off 10 different times. Each time he cut his head off, another head emerged, hence empowering him to proceed with his repentance. Finally, satisfied with his severity, Shiva showed up after his tenth beheading and rewarded him a boon of heavenly nectar of eternality.

King Ravana
Ten-headed Ravana. Wikimedia

Ravana additionally requested for supremacy over divine beings, heavenly spirits, different rakshas, and serpents which was granted by Shiva along with his 10 severed heads and an incredible knowledge of heavenly weapons and magic.

  1.  Knowledge

Ravana was the grandson of Brahma, the creator of the universe, the son of sage Vishrava and a sibling of Kubera, the god of riches.

He himself was an exceptional researcher and was learned in Ayurveda, political science and the ways of the Kshatriyas (warriors). His ten heads are known to speak of his insight into the Shastras and the four Vedas A great Veena player, he additionally wrote several books and verses on medicine and composed the Ravana Samhita, a book on Hindu astrology and the Arka Prakasham.

This highlights that despite your ill-deeds, knowledge can win you laurels, even from your staunchest rivals.

  1. Indomitable Leadership

Valmiki recognized Ravana as an exceptionally proficient and just ruler.

Ravana emerged victorious in the battle against the demon king Sumali and assumed control and administration over Lanka, thus gaining the title of ‘Lanka Naresh’. Under his reign, the kingdom came to be known as ‘Sone ki Lanka’ (kingdom of gold) and witnessed the most prosperous and magnanimous period in its history.

Ravana was a minding ruler, who cared for his subjects well. It was only under his rule and guidance that the kingdom, constricted by Vishwakarma, the best of all architects, flourished.

ALSO READ Ramayana : 6 Timeless Management Lessons From the Ancient Hindu Text that You Must Im

  1. Ambition and Belief in Self

After his penance to Lord Shiva, Ravana had wished for supremacy over divine beings, heavenly spirits, different rakshas, and serpents. Maintaining conviction in himself and his abilities, he wanted to emerge victorious and preside over all three worlds. He also fought a series of wars and lost only four times. Ravana also defeated Sumali, the demon king and established control over Lanka.

This tells us that ambition is the key to progress. Without ambition, men would have not discovered wheels, horse carts or chariots, magnificent cities, temples and palaces, or majestic sailing ships. Absence of ambition means an absence of growth.

  1. Staying True to Oneself

Ravana wanted to emerge as the greatest ruler, however, he did not aspire to become ‘God’ or attain moksha.

In response to the great king Mahabali who advised Ravana to shun malice and greed, the Lanka Naresh told him that he would never strive to be a God and shall live like a man and die as one too. Ravana lived exactly as his emotions guided him and did not aim to be a role model for the generations to follow.

This brings forth Ravana’s conviction to live our life to its full and die as a man should, staying true to one’s character and never once aiming to be godly.

Ravana
Ravana’s story is a testament that a single vice in character is sufficient to drag you to your end. Wikimedia

Ram And Ravana Had More In Common Than You Think

Most of us believe Ravana to be an evil rakshas. However, a deeper understanding of the Hindu mythology and its characters reveal that both Ram and Ravana had traits that one must aspire to imbibe.

Throughout the epic, both Ram and Ravana demonstrated outrageous determination in following their convictions, regardless of what they were to face thereafter.  Yet, we only address Ram as the Lord while look at Ravana as an evil force, despite recognizing (however not truly accepting) his traits.

Ram battled with valor against all dangers, until the point he delivered justice for all the wrong that was done to him. Similarly, Ravana remained loyal to his choices (abduction of Sita) and its consequences till his final breath.

In his quest to bring his wife back, Ram fought battles, meandered for miles, and even clashed with the gods of the oceans. Despite all intricacies, what guided Lord Ram to ultimate victory was his determination. Similarly, Ravana (and Shiva) proliferated the best hypothesis of modern humanism “Atma so paramatma” which says there is no more noteworthy power than human fortitude.

Ram touched the hearts of many upon his chance meeting with Shabri and preached lessons of equality and moving beyond barriers of caste upon consumption of her half-consumed berries. In the same manner, the Raksh tribe also proposed faith in nature-worship and universal identity with no predisposition for caste, creed or gender. In fact, Ravan also propagated the ‘Raksh neeti’ which implied equality for all.

ALSO READ Book Review: Was Surpanakha a destructive Demoness from the Ramayana or tormented Woman?

The world largely celebrates Ramayana as a battle the Raghuvansham fought in wife Sita’s esteem. Tales of Lord Ram’s reverence towards his mothers and the female clan in general have been cited across generations that earned him the title of the ‘Maryada Purushottam’.

Ravana
Battle between Ram and Ravana. Wikimedia

In a similar manner, Ravan avenged the disrespect given to his sister Shurpanka by abducting Sita. However, he did not ill-treat her, and instead kept her with dignity in the Ashok Vatika.

These instances draw attention to one of the traits of human sociology – an individual who questions principles, assumptions and values is always painted dark. I believe Ravan was one of them.

Maybe over the years, Ramayana has been over-simplified, and consequently, a little misinterpreted.  I believe a lot can be learnt from both, the hero and the anti-hero of the epic.

 

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Vivah Panchami: Celebration of Marriage between Lord Ram and Goddess Sita

Vivah Panchami is a Hindu festival that celebrates the wedding of Lord Ram and Goddess Sita.

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The Vivah Mandap temple
The Vivah Mandap temple where Lord Rama and Sita are said to have been married. It is situated next to the Janki Mandir. Ram Tower is located to the south of Ram Temple. It was inaugurated by former Prime Minister Mr Sushil Koirala. Wikimedia Commons

Vivah Panchami is a Hindu festival that celebrates the wedding of Lord Ram and Goddess Sita. It is celebrated on Shuklapaksha Panchami, which is the fifth day of the month of Margashirsha according to Hindu calendar. In 2017, the festival was celebrated on 23rd November.

In Ramayana, it was on this day (Vivah Panchami) that Lord Ram; the eldest son of King Dashrath of Ayodhya, the reincarnation of Lord Vishu got married to Goddess Sita. Vivah Panchami festival celebrates the union between these two divine beings.

Legend:

According to the legends, it was on this day that Lord Ram along with his brother Lakshman visited Jankpur, the birthplace of Goddess Sita. In the Kingdom of Mithila, King Janak had organized the ceremony of ‘Swayamvar’ for his daughter Sita. In this ceremony, the Goddess was supposed to choose her groom. The condition for winning the Swayamvar, however, was decided on contender’s ability to lift a the majestic bow of Lord Shiva string it. Lord Ram not only managed to raise the bow but he also broke it and thus fulfilled the condition and married Sita. According to Ramayana, during this grand marriage ceremony other the brothers of Lord Ram like Lakshman, Bharat and Shatrughan were also married to Sita’s cousins called Urmila, Mandavi, and Shuddhakirti respectively.

Celebrations on Vivah Panchami:

Vivah Panchami is celebrated with great enthusiasm in the city of Ayodhya, the birthplace of Lord Ram and Mithilanchal region in India as well as in Janakpuri in the Nepal. At Ayodhya, the devotees try to recreate the wedding ceremony by decorating the idols of Ram and Sita with bridal clothes and jewellery. This celebration is also popularly referred to as ‘Ram Vivah Utsav.’ Ramleela, a dramatic folk enactment of Lord Ram’s life is also performed at various places depicting the marriage ceremony between Lord Ram and Sita.

Vivah Panchami also has a great significance in the region of Janakpuri (in Nepal) as it believed to be the place where the marriage ceremony took place. Many devotees visit the place from India to Nepal to worship Lord Ram and Goddess Sita and celebrate their union. People seek the blessing from these idols of Ram and Sita to live a happy married life. It is also a firm belief among the devotees that worshipping Lord Ram and Sita on this day will help them deal with their marital woes and strengthen their union.

 

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Ever Wondered what do Ancient Sites mentioned in Ramayana look like? Visit these Ramayana Destinations to know!

Visit these Ramayana destinations the first chance you get, to feel closer to your roots.

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Ramayana destinations
Ramayana is not just a story, it is a way of life which has been guiding believers and non-believers for centuries about the right way to live on this planet. Wikimedia

New Delhi, November 8, 2017 : Ramayana is not just a story, it is a way of life which has been guiding believers and non-believers for centuries about the right way to live on this planet. I can confidently vouch that we have all heard stories from Ramayana at one point in our life. Ramayana is not just a story, it is an indispensable part of the Hindu religious law.

There exist innumerable arguments questioning the authenticity of Ramayana. While it is almost impossible to prove or disapprove anything, what is feasible is to trace the chronology of events, focusing on various Ramayana destinations that can still be visited to experience the ethereal world that is believed to have existed in the Treta Yug.

Here is a list of ancient sites mentioned in Ramayana.

You can plan a trip to these Ramayana destinations to feel closer to Him, and personally experience what we have all grown up reading and hearing about.

  1. Janakpur

Mention in Ramayana

First on our list of Ramayana destinations is Janakpur. A key phase took place at Janakpur, one of the many other Ramayana destinations. The ancient city of Mithila, as it was previously called, was home to Sita, where she lived till her marriage.

Legend has it that to get rid of a devastating drought, the King of Janak ploughed the land in Janakpur when he stumbled upon an earthen pot out of which Sita emerged. This also explains why the place is also known as Sitamarhi.

King Janak brought the child back to the palace at Mithila, where she grew up and was married to Ram.

The Ramayana explains Mithila as a ‘divya-bhumi’, a sacred land that pulled Ram to it.

Visiting Janakpur

A small town in Nepal, you are sure to come across compelling stories of Sita (or Janaki) infused in the landscapes, temples and the people of Janakpur.

Sita’s  swayamvar, the ceremony which saw participation of learned men from all big and small territories, took place at Rangbhoomi. It was in this ceremony that Shiva’s bow was broken into pieces by Ram.

Dhanush Sagar is a tank on the area where a piece of the bow of Shiva, broken by Ram in an attempt to win Sita’s hand, had fallen. Another piece is believed to have fallen at some distance, now known by the name Ratan Sagar. And the third piece is believed to have fallen in Dhanusha, 15 km away from Janakpur.

Ramayana destinations
Dhanush Sagar in Nepal. Wikimedia

Visitors can also visit the Ram-Sita vivah mandapa, which has been made in Janakpur.

Multiple devotees flock Janakpur every year o pray and pay homage to Sita during Vivah Panchami, the day Ram and Sita are believed to have got married. The quaint little town also witnesses tourists on Ram Navami, the birthday of Lord Ram.

How To Reach Janakpur

Janakpur is one of the ancient sites mentioned in Ramayana, only a few km from the Indian border and can be reached by flight, train or via road.

Travelers can fly to Kathmandu and take a smaller airline to Janakpur. However, make sure you check flight availability beforehand as they only ply a few times in a week.

Otherwise, one can also visit Janakpur via buses.

  1. Chitrakoot

Mention in Ramayana

Next on our list of Ramayana destinations is Chitrakoot. It is one of the most intricately explained Ramayana destinations. Upon being banished from the royal palace, it was here that Lord Ram, accompanied by wife Sita and brother Lakshmana spent eleven of their 14 years of exile (vanvas).

Ramayana also mentions of Bharat who came to Chitrakoot to persuade his brother Ram to return to Ayodhya. It was also here that Ram performed the last rites of his father, King Dasharatha in presence of all gods and goddesses.

Chitrakoot’s peaceful environment also acted as a source of inspiration for the great poet Goswami Tulsidas to pen the Ramcharitmanas, retelling the life of Lord Ram in Awadhi.

Visiting Chitrakoot

Nestled between the borders of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, Chitrakoot has a breathtaking location with a tranquil aura.

Quick fact : ‘Chitra’ means a beautiful painting and ‘Kuta’ means mountains.

While all ancient sites mentioned in Ramayana hold spiritual transcendence, located along the Mandakini River, the sacred city of Chitrakoot is particularly known as a centre for spiritual enlightenment, and is a potpourri of devotion, legend and traditions.

Pilgrims can visit the Bharat Milap Mandir, where Bharat visited elder brother Ramand requested him to return to Ayodhya to claim his rightful throne. Upon his refusal, Bharat took his khadau (slippers) with him to the palace to place on the throne until Ram returned to the kingdom after 14 years.

Located on the Kamdagiri Hills near the temple premise, there exist engraved footprints of Ram and his brothers that are worshipped till date.

Located at the centre of the town is Ramghat where Ram used to take a dip in the mighty Mandakini river. This also happens to be the place where Tulsidas met Ram and Lakshmana.

Ramayana destinations
Ramghat in Chitrakoot. Wikimedia

Legend has it that Tulsidas was making sandalwood paste when the two brothers disguised as two kids approached him and asked him to apply a tilak on their forehead too. Not knowing the boys were really God, the poet made the tilak. It was Hanuman who helped Tulsidas recognize the brothers by reciting the famous verse,

“Chitrakoot ke ghaat pai bhai santan ki bheer,

Tulsidas chandan ghise tilak det Raghubeer.”

One can also visit the Gupt Godavari caves at a distance of 18 km, where inside the saves stand two natural throne-like rocks where Ram and Lakshmana sat during their stay.

How To Reach Chitrakoot

You can take a flight to Khajuraho, from where buses and taxis operate. The nearest railway station is Chitrakoot Dham. You can also choose to take the road to reach Chitrakoot.

3. Panchvati, Nasik

Mention in Ramayana

Third on our list of Ramayana destinations is Nasik. During his exile years, Lord Rama, accompanied by Sita and Lakshmana moved from one place to another, to find tranquility in nature and feel closer to the natural way of life. After staying in Chitrakoot for eleven years, the next Ramayana destination was Nasik where they spent a significant amount of time.

Their hut was built in Panchvati, which is famous for its five huge Banyan trees and is only 4 km away from Nasik.

Located on the banks of the Godavari, it was in Nasik that Lord Rama and Lakshmana had an encounter with Surpanakha, Ravana’s younger sister, where consequently her nose was cut off. This explains the rationale behind the name of the place. (Nasika means nose in Sanskrit)

To avenge the disrespect faced by his sister, it was from here that Ravana abducted Sita and flew her to Lanka on his Pushpak Vimaan. Needless to say, it was here where Lakshmana drew the ‘Lakshmana Rekha’,.

Visiting Nasik

The Kala Ram Mandir in Panchvati, Nasik is believed to have been built right where Lord Rama’s kuti (hut) was built.

Ramayana destinations
Kalaram temple in Nasik. Wikimedia

Nasik’s Rama Kunda is the chief pilgrimage place in Nasik. The Kunda is primarily a tank where Lord Rama and Sita allegedly bathe. This makes the tank extremely sacred.

The Rama Kund is also known Asthi Vilaya Tirtha, because human bones are known to dissolve here. Legend has it that Lord Rama performed funeral rites at the Kund in memory of His deceased father, King Dasharatha.

How To Reach Nasik

Nasik is very well connected via air, trains and road.

Panchvati is only 4.2 km away from Nasik and can be easily reached through road.

4. Kishkindha, Hampi

Mention in Ramayana

Next on our list of Ramayana destinations is Kishkindha. Marked by dense forests, huge rocks and the Tungabhadra river, Karnataka’s Hampi can be mapped to Ramayana’s Kishkindha, one of the most active Ramayana destinations.

In the forests of Dandak, Kishkindha was the kingdom of the Vanara king Bali.

It was in the forests of Kishkindha where Lord Rama met Hanuman.

After Sita was abducted by Ravana, Lord Ram had first entered the kingdom of apes looking for her, along with Lakshmana.

After a fight between the two monkey kings, Sugriva and Bali, Sugriva took refuge on the Matanga mountain along with Hanuman. Lord Rama had killed Bali and helped Sugriva win the throne. The brothers then stayed in Kishkindha awaiting results of Hanuman’s search for Sita.

Sugriva’s army of apes also pledged their support to Lord Ram here and hence came into being his army against Ravana.

Visiting Kishkindha

Ramayana clearly traces the roots of Kishkindha to the Tungabhadra river, which till date is counted among some of the major rivers of Karnataka.

One of the many ancient sites mentioned in Ramayana, the region along the river near Hampi in Karnataka is identified as Kishkindha from Ramayana.

Ramayana destinations
Kishkindha mountain. Wikimedia

Hampi has a culturally rich past and has much more to offer to visitors. However, for those of you looking to trace Ramayana’s trajectory, this place will not disappoint you.

Tara Mountain near Hampi is named after Bali’s wife, who had been saved by the monkey kind from demons.

As per Ramayana, Sugriva had taken refuge inside the Rishyamuk mountain. Legend has it that Bali had been cursed by a saint, who said the monkey king would perish if he entered the mountain. Thus, to save his life, Sugriva took refuge inside this mountain.

Pilgrims can also visit Nidapuram where a huge mound of scorched ash remains and is believed to be the cremated remains of Bali.

A little to the north-west lie the Anjanadri mountain, which is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Hanuman, who lived here with his parents, Kesari and Anjani.

The mountain has been named after Hanuman himself, who was called Anjaneya.

Quick fact : You will have to climb 550 stairs to reach to the ancient Hanuman temple situated on this mountain.

How To Reach Kishkindha

Hampi is at a distance of 330 km from Goa and can make for a comfortable road trip. The nearest railway station is Hospet Junction which is merely 13 km away. The station is well connected with trains, and roads. You can also avail the bus services by Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation

While it cannot be confirmed that everything we know about Ramayana took place as we know of it. However, these Ramayana destinations continue to exist till date and prove that they may just have transpired in reality.

Visit these Ramayana destinations the first chance you get, to feel closer to your roots.

 

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Hinduism is Not an Official or Preferred Religion in Any Country of The World, Says a New Report

Though Hinduism is the third largest religion of the world, it is not the official state religion of any country according to a Pew Research Center Report

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Hinduism
Hinduism is not an official religion of any country in the world. Instagram.
  • No country has declared Hinduism as its official state religion – despite India being an influential Hindu political party
  • Hinduism is not an official or preferred religion in any country of the world, according to a Pew Research Center report.
  • 53% of 199 nations considered in the study don’t have an official religion
  • 80 countries are assigned either an “official religion” or “preferred religion”

Nevada, USA, October 16: Hinduism is the primeval and third largest religion of the world with about 1.1 billion followers of moksh (liberation) being its utmost desire of life. India is among the category of nations where the government do not have an official or preferred religion.

Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank headquartered in Washington DC that aims to inform the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.

The report states that a country’s official religion is regarded as a legacy of its past and present privileges granted by the state. And a few other countries fall on the other side of the gamut, and propagate their religion as the ‘official religion’, making it a compulsion for all citizens.

It adds up on the context of allocation that more than eight-in-ten countries (86%) provide financial support or resources for religious education programs and religious schools that tend to benefit the official religion.

Hinduism
Islam is the most practiced official religion of the world. Instagram.

Commenting on Hinduism, the report states:

In 2015, Nepal came close to enshrining Hinduism, but got rejected of a constitutional amendment due to a conflict between pro-Hindu protesters and state police.

Although India has no official or preferred religion as mentioned in the Constitution,it was found by PEW that in India the intensity of government constraints and social antagonism involving religion was at a peak. “Nigeria, India, Russia, Pakistan and Egypt had the highest levels of social hostilities involving religion among the 25 most populous countries in 2015. All fell into the “very high” hostilities category,” the report added.

As per the 2011 census, it was found that 79.8% of the Indian population idealizes Hinduism and 14.2% practices to Islam, while the rest 6% pursuit other religions.

While Hinduism stands up with the majority, Article 25 of the Constitution of India contributes secularism allowing for religious freedom and allows every Indian to practice his/her religion, without any intervention by the community or the government.

Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, President of Universal Society of Hinduism, applauded the Hindu community for their benefaction to the society and advised Hindus to concentrate on inner purity, attract spirituality towards youth and children, stay far from the greed, and always keep God in the life.

According to Pew, these are “places where government officials seek to control worship practices, public expressions of religion and political activity by religious groups”.

-by Bhavana Rathi of NewsGram.  She can be reached @tweet_bhavana