Faith

Rama’s appeal goes beyond religion

Utsav Rama  

Yaavat sthaasyanti girayaH saritaH cha mahiitale || 1-2-36 taavat raamaayaNa kathaa lokeSu prachariSyati |

“As long as the mountains and even rivers flourish on the surface of the earth, so long the legend of Ramayana will flourish in this world... [1-2-36b-37a] - Srimad Valmiki Ramayana

The Ramayana has stood for the ethos of India for ages. Jawaharlal Nehru was amazed at the fact that illiterate rural folk in India could recite verses from the Ramayana with meaning. Valmiki considered Rama as the personification of Dharma: Ramo Vigrahavan Dharmah; but he was depicted only as a human being:

AtmAnam mAnusham manyE RAmam dasarathAthmajam

Kamban considered him an avatar of Mahavishnu. In the ‘Mithilai Kaatchi Padalam,’ immediately after “annalum nokkinar, avalum nokkinaal,” Kamban wrote how Rama and Sita were speechless when they met at Mithila for the first time.

Karun kadal palliyil kalavi neengi poi

Pirindhavar koodinaal Pesal vendumo?

They were meeting after the separation from Ksheerabdhi and stunned into silence when they met. Tulsidas composed the most popular of the Ramayanas. For him Ram was the Maryadha Purushottam. Srivaishnavites found in the Ramayana meaning for their concepts like Parathvam – Sri Rama Kainkarya Sri - Lakshmana Parathantriyam – Bharatha Bhagavatha Seshatvam – Shatrughna And Ananyarthvam – Sita.

Periyazhwar through Hanuman reveals a secret known only to the Prince and the Princess.

Elliyam pothu inidhu irutthal

Irunthathathor idaivakaiyil

Mallikai maamaalai kondu anga aarthathum ore adayalam

(Sita ties Rama with a jasmine garland one fine evening when they were alone.)

In his kriti ‘Vachamagochara,’ (Kaikavasi) Tyagaraja says how Rama represented a mixture of high heroism and deep compassion. — ‘manavati materingi cha maramou kastramu neyagani; Manambukai meda dachaga madhavundu kani karagi vegame deenarti bhanjanudai prana danambosaga munnu chanina; banambu natu chedaraseyaleda ganalola tyagarajanutu mahima (As the hunter aimed his arrow, to get at the chamara (deer), Rama aimed his arrow which stuck the hunter’s arrow faster and saved the deer).

Vedanta Desika sings the glory of Rama’s valour in his unparalleled ‘Raghuveera Gadyam.’ Mahatma Gandhi dreamt of Ram Rajya and started off his prayers everyday with ‘Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram...’ No wonder, he became a martyr with the famous words “Hey Ram” on his lips.

Hindus accept any form of worship without quarrel. They swear by the dictum, “Aakashath Pathitham Thoyam; Yatha Gachathi Sagaram Sarvadeva Namaskaram; Keshavam Prathi Gachathi”

What about Muslims? It is amazing that the Muslims of India showed as much reverence for the Prince of Ayodhya as the Hindus. There are no less than 23 Ramayanas in Indo-Persian literature, translated from either Valmiki or Tulsidas. The Persian scholar Abul Fazl records how Emperor Akbar commissioned these translations to foster amity between the communities. The first Ramayana in Persian was by Mulla Abdul Qadir Badayuni in 1584. It was embellished by 176 beautiful illustrations and is kept in the Jaipur museum.

Akbar’s mother Hamida Banu, placed her seal over the manuscript indicating her ownership. The manuscripts was viewed even in 1604 in her death bed. Jehangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb had placed their seals on the manuscript. A duplicate of this manuscript was made by Abdul Rahim Khan with Akbar’s permission and this is preserved at Freer Art Gallery, Washington. Akbar had issued gold coins with portraits of Rama and Sita. These coins are preserved in the museums of Lucknow, Varanasi and London.

Abul Fazl presenting the manuscript of his book to Emperor Akbar

Abul Fazl presenting the manuscript of his book to Emperor Akbar  

Shah Jahan’s son Dara Shikoh, translated Tulsidas Ramayan into Persian with the title Ramayan Nazam Khushtar. The work starts with the word Bismillah, the very same word with which the Quran also starts.

Mullah Sheikh Sadullah (Masih) (Jahangir’s period) translated the Ramayana into Persian after studying Sanskrit literature for 12 years in Benaras during Jehangir’s time. He considers the story of Ram and Sita is the story of love.

There are over 300 versions of the Ramayana stories in the Awadh region. One of the most famous poems on Rama in Urdu is by Mohammad Iqbal, in his well-known work, Tarana-e-Hind, Song of India. Iqbal is better known for his famous song, ‘Saare Jahaan se Acha, Hindustan Hamara’.

Iqbal views the warrior prince as an ideal emperor, Ram Rajya having set the standard for governance, son, husband, friend, brother, master, a leader and so on. Most powerful leader, He is known as Maryadha Purushottam. To quote Iqbal:

Imam e Hind – Leader of India – Ram – by Iqbal

Labraiz Hai Sharab-e-Haqiqat Se Jam-e-Hind Sub Falsafi Hain Khita-e-Maghrib Ke Raam-e-Hind (Overflowing with the wine of truth is the cup of India. All philosophers of the Western world have acknowledged India).

Ye Hindiyon Ke Fikr-e-Falak Ras Ka Hai Asar Riffat Mein Asman Se Bhi Uncha Hai Baam-e-Hind (It is the result of the elegant thinking of Indians that higher than the sky is the position of India).

Hai Ram Ke Wujood Pe Hindustan Ko Naaz Ahl-e-Nazar Samajhte Hain Uss Ko Imam-e-Hind (India is proud of the existence of Ram Spiritual people consider him prelate of India).

Talwar Ka Dhani Tha, Shujaat Mein Fard Tha Pakeezgi Mein, Josh-e-Mohabbat Mein Fard Tha (He was expert in sword craft, was unique in bravery Was matchless in piety and in the enthusiasm of love).

Al Biruni describes the bilingual coins minted by Mohammad Ghazni with the Sanskrit word, ‘avatar’ to describe Prophet Mohammad. Mazhar-jaan-e-jaan (1699-1781) suggested that the avatars of Vishnu, particularly Ram and Krishna, should also be understood as Prophets.

As we celebrate Sri Rama Navami, it would be nice to chant:

‘Sri Ramachandra Sritha Parijatha Samastha Kalyana Gunam Purasith Sita muka amboruha Sancharika Nirantharam Mangalam Mata nothu.’

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 3:14:41 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/faith/ramas-appeal-goes-beyond-religion/article26805045.ece

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