The great epics of the world almost always have been about the triumph of a great hero. In these stories, against all odds, the hero defeats evil or overcomes it and returns triumphantly to a place that may have once exiled him, despised him or disrespected him. Whether it be the tales of Heracles or the epic of Gilgamesh, the hero triumphs against all odds to achieve his goals. In contrast, the Ramayana seems to be not merely about the triumph of a hero, Shri Ram, but a tale of woe and, at the same time, a tale of success against all odds. A success against undefeatable or seemingly impenetrable evil. I am not a great theologian, nor do I have great knowledge of the scriptures.
What I have learned and what I have understood is from the Adyhyatma Ramayanam, the Malayalam version of Ramayanam I grew up with. I remember during the Malayalam Month of Karkidakam when it rained non-stop, my Amma, my mother, reciting the Adyhyatma Ramayanam and explaining the meaning of each verse. Rama appeared as an ethereal being, the model son, the model brother, and the model man. Maryada Purushottam.
An avatar of Bhagvan Vishnu, who is cast aside by circumstances beyond his control. Going to exile instead of being crowned as the King of Ayodhya.
He gracefully accepts his exile, and when his wife, Devi Sita, is kidnapped, he goes to all extents to rescue his wife.
Those other heroes and epics that I mentioned in the beginning have been consumed by the ravages of time. The Ancient Greeks or Mesopotamians and their culture and their gods are forever lost. As much as we may marvel at the epics of Gilgamesh, Hercules, Achilles and a million other heroes, they have become a story of times past. These epics, and the civilizations that anchored them, are lost forever.
Again, I am far from anyone to make such grand pronouncements.
But the Ramayana, the Ramayanam, lives on millennia after it happened. It stuns us in its beauty, its elegance, a saga of treason, of betrayal. It's indescribable; it is a lot of knowledge, a lot of wisdom, and an illustration of the qualities we all should seek to replicate in our lives. Whether it be the unflinching loyalty of Hanuman, the brotherhood shared between Ram and Laxman, or between Ram and Bharatha, who rejects his mother's plotting and stays firmly on the side of Dharma.
The epics of the ancient world have become mere legends today, but Ramayanam is not. In Bharatham, it lives and breathes. It illuminates the lives of millions, a billion people on this subcontinent, regardless of religious faith. It is hard to convey the grandeur of what we are going to witness on January 22.
It is an ancient civilization finding its utterance, in many ways, meeting its destiny. Finding parts that were once thought to be lost or mere memories being resurrected. The Daivata, Shri Ram, is returning to the very site of his Avatar. How do you find words to celebrate that? How do you convey the feeling that so many bhaktas of Shri Raman feel?
I am thousands and thousands of kilometres away from my Amma and my Grandmother, but my mind is filled with memories. During my childhood, I was amazed at how Sri Rama conducted himself, outliving all the crises he faced. I remember the first time I watched the Japanese Film, "Ramayana: The Legend of Prince Rama". My first purchase with the first real 'salary' I earned was the Amar Chitra Katha version of Ramayana for my sister.
There are those who will decry these, and they should, for it is their right.
I, however, feel great joy in the fact that the Supreme Court judgement gave a clear path to peace and has led to acceptance. Growing up, I thought that the dispute would never end and that it would never be resolved. That the Supreme Court of the judicial system would never find a way out for so long, but I guess it did find a way after 2019.
There is a greater meaning in the fact that Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi is doing the consecration, the Pran-Prathishta of Shri Rama.
January 22 2024, might not be the most momentous occasion ever in the history of histories. Yet, it is a momentous occasion for a great people, a great civilization, when a Daivata returns.
And that too at a grand site worthy of a great legacy, worthy of the great epic that every child learns from the Himalayas to Kanyakumari. The story of the time good triumphed over evil, the story of the triumph of Rama over Ravana, a story of love, of sacrifice, of brotherhood, of loyalty. Of so many great qualities that all of us aspire to in our lives, which may never be achieved. Even a mere reflection of his would more than suffice to achieve great Punya in our lives.
Jai Siya Ram! Jai Shri Ram!
Special Thanks to Nandini Kamath for inputs.