Lecture Art

Ramayana has lessons in leadership skills

Prof. Sivakumar at R.R. Sabha in Chennai   | Photo Credit: K_V_Srinivasan

Prof. V. Sivakumar, from Washington, spoke about Values, Leadership, Communication and Ethics in Tyagaraja’s kritis, and explained how these qualities were evident in Rama — Tyagaraja’s ishta deivam. The event was in honour of Sivakumar’s parents — Saraswathi and Venkatrama Iyer. Sivakumar analysed how the saint composer presented Rama as leader, arbiter, just ruler, true friend, equanimous prince and a person who knew the value of detachment.

Sivakumar posed the question: What should be the focus of one’s meditation — Rama’s qualities or his name? Tyagaraja in ‘Evarikai Avataramu’ (Devamanohari), draws attention to the greatness of Rama’s name, he said. Two qualities of Rama stand out, namely satya and dharma, said Sivakumar. In the Ramayana, Lakshmana is unable to kill Indrajit, and he finally says, “ If Rama is one who keeps his promise, then let this arrow kill Indrajit.” And that is enough for the arrow to hit the target. Tyagaraja is lost in admiration of Rama, when he sings ‘Raama nee samaaanam evaru.’ (Who is equal to you, Rama?)

A good leader tries different ways like reconciliation, mediation, negotiation and arbitration, to resolve conflicts. In the Kapinarayani kriti ‘Sarasa sama dana,’ Tyagaraja says that Rama tried everything possible to get Ravana to mend his ways. He offered to gift Ayodhya to Ravana. He recognised Vibhishana as ruler of Lanka. But Ravana did not budge. With all possible avenues exhausted, Rama had no alternative but to kill Ravana, says Tyagaraja.

Not dictatorial

A good leader makes decisions only after conferring with others. When Vibhishana arrived from Lanka, Rama asked the monkeys what he should do: should he accept Vibhishana, or send him away. Rama had already made up his mind as to what he was going to do. And yet, he was not dictatorial, but allowed others to state their points of view. A good leader does what is right. He does not go by what would be a popular decision.

Had Rama abided by popular opinion in the case of Vibhishana, then the latter would not have been admitted into Rama’s camp. But when the consensus was against Vibhishana, Rama welcomed him, showing that while he was willing to lend his ears to the opinion of others, he would always abide by dharma. ‘Nagumomu’ (Abheri) is a cry for acceptance, and can be interpreted as Vibhishana’s words of anguish as he awaits Rama’s decision.

In ‘Emani Maataaditivo Rama’ (Thodi), Tyagaraja marvels at Rama’s ability to choose the right words, keeping in mind the listener’s bent of mind. This is in tune with the modern concept of designing an advertisement to convince the target audience.

Some glitches

There were, however, some errors in Dr. Sivakumar’s lecture. The Ramayana begins with a list of 16 qualities — not 13 as the speaker said — and a question from Valmiki to Narada about who has these qualities. It was not Vedanta Desika, who said ‘Ramo vigrahavaan dharmah.’ This is a popular quote from Valmiki Ramayana. Mareecha makes this observation about Rama, when he counsels Ravana.

Sivakumar got Kamban wrong when he said that the bard describes Rama’s face as resembling a sunflower, when he was told to go to the forest. Kamban, in fact, says that Rama’s face, when he was told of his coronation, was like a freshly bloomed lotus, but when he was told of his banishment, his face was even more beautiful than a lotus, which has just blossomed.

The Rama charama sloka “Sakrdeva prapannaya tava asmi iti ca yaachate” is another well-known verse, and it ends with the words “vratam mama,” and not “vratam maam.”

Sivakumar’s speech was followed by Prema Rangarajan’s concert, where she presented a few of the kritis Sivakumar spoke about.

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Printable version | May 12, 2021 5:12:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/ramayana-has-lessons-in-leadership-skills/article31048782.ece

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