On October 11, when most of central and northern India was busy celebrating Vijayadasami-Dasara in remembrance of Lord Rama’s victory over the Lankan king Ravan by setting the latter’s effigies on fire, Gond tribals were gathering in large numbers in the Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra to revere their “God Ravan”, and to demand that the practice of demonising him be stopped.
Over 3,000 people organised a rally in the Korchi town of Gadchiroli where a prayer meeting was held in front a photo of the ‘Ravan God’, and a memorandum was given to the district administration that the practice of Ravan dahan (burning of Ravan’s effigy) should be stopped.
“In our >Gond culture, Ravan is revered since ancient times. Even Valmiki Ramayan has said nothing bad about Ravan. He was demonised only in Tulsidas’ Ramayan . Valmiki clearly said that Ravan did not do anything wrong and whatever he did was to protect his family and culture,” said Mr. Sandip Warkhede, Gadchiroli district president of the Gondwana Gantantra Party, the chief organisers of the event in many parts of Gadchiroli.
Memorandum submitted “The entire Gond community wants Ravan dahan be stopped. Every year, we have been submitting memorandums to the district authorities to stop it. This time also, we gave a memorandum to the Deputy District Collector. Our culture is different from that of the Hindus and even the courts have said so,” he claimed, blaming ‘Manuwadis’ for demonising his god.
Mr. Warkhede also said that events to revere Ravan were conducted in Kamalpur, Ranji, Pendhri and Maldhugi villages, and the Dhanora and Kurkheda blocks of the Gadchiroli district, apart from Korchi town.
“Over 3,000 people participated in the Korchi event. More than 42 villagers came together to offer prayers to God Ravan at the Kamalapur village. In Pendhri village also, over 6,000 people revered God Ravan,” Mr. Warkhede told The Hindu , adding that the Paratwadi village in Gadchiroli had been organising this event for over 30 years under the banner of Gondi Dharma Sanskriti Bachao Samiti.
Mr. Warkhede and his party plan to take forward the movement until the government bans Ravan dahan .
“Our god should not be demonised because even Valmiki praised him. But the authorities have been reluctant to take action on our demands. This time also, they accepted our memorandum but they were clearly apathetic to our demands and programmes,” he added.