Hindutva Forces Have Corrupted Rama’s Image
Former judge of the Indian Supreme Court Justice Markandey Katju argues that Hindutva forces have corrupted Rama’s image, demonising him in the minds of the minorities of India.
I have called Mughal Emperor Akbar, the Father of the Indian Nation. I have also referred to Emperor Ashoka, who ruled India from 268 to 232 BCE, the grandfather of the Indian Nation.
Now let me mention Rama, whom I regard as the great grandfather of the Indian Nation.
Today, in the polarised, emotionally surcharged and communalised atmosphere which has been created by the ‘Hindutva’ forces that have taken control over India, Rama may be depicted and regarded by the Indian minorities, particularly Muslims, as a fearsome and oppressive entity who symbolises lynching, terrorizing and atrocities. But was Rama really like that?
We need not go into the controversy whether Rama was a mythological or historical figure, though it may be mentioned that behind every mythology, there is usually some history. Homer’s Iliad is regarded as Greek mythology, but archaeologists have found some evidence of a Trojan war. Similarly, my own opinion is that Rama was a great king who did good deeds and was later transformed into a god.
Indeed, in the original Ramayana of Valmiki, which is in Sanskrit, Rama is not a god but a human being. He was a prince, who later became a king of Ayodhya. It was about 2000 years later in the 16th century that he was transformed into a god by Tulsidas in his Ramcharitmanas.
In Valmiki’s Ramayana, which is the original Ramayana, there is a scene narrated where King Dasharatha of Ayodhya, having become old, wanted to anoint his eldest son Rama as his successor. But before doing so, he invited the people of Ayodhya and asked them their opinion about whether Rama is deserving of becoming the next king. The people of Ayodhya replied:
“Nikhilenanu poorvya cha pita putraan iva aurasaan
Shrushushante cha woh shishya kachit varmasu danshitaah
Iti woh purush vyaagrah sada Ramobhibhaashate
Vyasaneshu manushyaanam bhrisham bhavati dukhitah
Utsaveshu cha sarveshu pitev paritushyati”
“O King, your son Rama indeed deserves to be the king.
He behaves like a father to the people.
He grieves when the people are in sorrow (due to some calamity or tragedy),
and is pleased like a father when the people celebrate festivals.”
So, in the original Ramayana, Rama is described as a father to the people who cared for all of them.
A true father takes care of all his children. He does not give care to some while oppressing others. Hence, if Rama had been the king of India today, he would have looked after the welfare of all the people of India, would not only have looked after Hindus, and would not have oppressed Muslims, Christians, Dalits etc.
Rama would also have severely punished those who partake in lynchings of Muslims, commit atrocities against them, or vandalise Christian churches, or oppress dalits.
I submit that the ‘Hindutva’ forces have tarnished Rama’s name, and it is time that the truth about him be told to the Indian people.
Markandey Katju is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India. He was also the Chairman of the Press Council of India.