Rama Katha and its Global Variations, by Dr. Radheshyam Dwivedi

Discussion in 'Lord Rama' started by Speechless world, Dec 27, 2015.

  1. Speechless world

    Speechless world New Member

    Ramakatha is the story of Shri Rama who appeared thousands of years ago in the Treta Yuga as the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Originally narrated in Sanskrit by Adikavi (first poet) Valmiki as Ramayana, the Katha has been written in almost every major language of the world let alone Indian languages. It is considered as an epic and Itihasa and commands an imposing place in world literature.

    Through the incarnation of Lord Vishnu in theTreta Yuga, Shri Rama presents himself as theMaryada Purushottam, the embodiment of the ideal person whose exemplary conduct sets the highest standards possible for a human being in seemingly impossible situations of life. In this respect, he is an ideal son, disciple, brother, husband, friend, leader, diplomat, warrior, and king. Even as a foe, he is ideally invincible yet very compassionate. He liberates the souls of all the Rakshashas who were opposed to him in the war. How humble is he; he credits all the glory of the victory to his army. In the entire Ramakatha, except for a few rare occasions Shri Rama never reveals his true Divine nature; his all-pervading omnipresent all powerful Parabrahma aspect of his personality. Even if we ignore this aspect for a moment he comes across as one of the most illustrious sons of Bharatmata for whom the Janmabhoomi was more precious than the heavens and no sacrifice was too great to uphold her honor.

    Some scholars have suggested that there is a philosophical allegory in theRamakatha. Rama and Sita represent the Purusha and Prakriti respectively. Marich in the guise of golden deer is Maya. Sita held in confinement by Ravana is the lost human soul in the grip of illusion. Rama’s search of her is the quest of the human soul by Purusha, the divine spirit . Sita’s fire-ordeal symbolizes the redemption ofPrakriti from the tains of Maya. Ultimately both Purusha and Prakriti enter into their original state. Swami Vivekananda during the course of a conversation has given a spiritual dimension to the story. He said that Rama was the Paramatman and Sita theJivatman and the human body was the Lanka. Jivatman that was imprisoned in the body as captured in Lanka always desired to be one with the Paramatman or Shri Rama, but the Rakshasas representing the certain traits of character would not allow it. Vibhishana represented Sattva Guna, Ravana the Rajas element, and the Kumbhakarana the Tamas (darkness, stupor, avarice, malaise, etc.). These Gunaskeep back Sita or Jivatman which is in the body or Lanka from joining theParamatman or Shri Rama. Sita thus imprisoned receives a visit from Hanuman, theGuru or divine teacher, who shows her the Lord’s ring which is Brahma Jnan, the Supreme Wisdom that destroys all the illusion, and thus Sita finds a way to be one with Shri Rama. In other words Jivatman ultimately finds itself one with theParamatman.

    Globally speaking the Ramakatha has deeply influenced the culture of Far Eastern countries. There was a time when most of the South Eastern countries were ruled by Hindu kings. Though predominantly a Buddhist country now, the kings in Thailand are still named after Rama. In Indonesia, where the majority of population is Muslim, Ramakatha is still very much a part of their life enacted in beautiful plays. Similarly in Bali, Sumatra, Java, Cambodia, and Burma, Ramakatha is still alive in plays, temples, and folklore. There are at least three Ayodhyas to my knowledge outside Bharat: one in Thailand, another in Korea, and yet another in Indonesia. The Ramakathas of at least some of these countries over the years has become somewhat modified from the original version. For example in some versions Sita has been shown as the daughter of Ravana. The Balinese Ramayana is famous for its literary qualities. Ramakatha has also made an impact in the lives of many Chinese, Japanese, and Korean peoples, especially the character of Roma the venerable hero of the katha. The Japanese have come out with an outstanding cartoon version of the Ramayana. In Australia, West Asia, and many Arab and African countries, the Ramayana is very much a part of life due to the presence of Hindus in those countries. In South Afica and Mauritius particularly, the Ramakatha has been the part of life of Hindus ever since their arrival to those countries more than a century and a half ago. A Hindu home can be identified with a miniature Hanuman murti in the front yard and a long pole with a red jhandim,the ceremonial flag. Even the purely social occasions have a significant part devoted to singing of theRamayana in a variety of styles. A significant time is devoted in radio and TV programmes to Ramakatha.

    European scholars have studied and written about the Ramayana, although some of the earlier studies were motivated as fault-finding missions so that the new masters could justify the superiority of the Christianity over the religions of the Indian slaves. Sir Warren Hastings, the first Governor General of India, however held a very respectable view. He wrote to Christian church leaders who questioned the life of Indians and their achievements, that Indians were highly cultured people and about the Ramayana: “This book of Hindus will still be there when the British Empire would be long gone!” Many European scholars have written about the literary qualities of the Ramayana of Valmiki. Clearly their interest is purely literary.

    Ramakatha came to the South American countries, Suriname, Guyana, and Trinidad more than one hundred and fifty years ago as a part and parcel of Hindus who were brought as indentured laborers for sugarcane cultivation like those in Mauritius and South Africa. These brave people defied every odd of their harsh destiny and not only survived in an alien environment, but thrived. This was the miracle of Ramakatha version of Tulsi Baba his Ramacharita Manas. The grace of Shri Rama showered on these unflinchingly devout people as they sang the glories of the Lord after retiring from strenuous work of the day with the accompaniment ofdholak and manjira. Tulsi Ramayan beautifully presents example after example showing that Bhakti, devotion, alone was the gateway to all the prosperity. These Jahajis, as they called themselves since they were brought in a ship, poured their hearts out at the lotus feet of Bhagawan Shri Rama. He returned their prayers, providing them with all the strength and the iron will that was needed to remain exemplary Hindus, work hard, and persevere when the pressures and allurement to change the religion was seductively enticing.

    Ramakatha influence in North and Central America is rather recent, but already there are thousands of Hindus in Canada, the United States of America, Mexico, and Central America. In Canada and the USA, the Ramakatha in all its splendor is making an impact in the lives of old and young alike. Ramayana and the Ramanama are chanted in homes and temples. Ramalila is played out in temples and large gatherings at the time of festivals like Vijayadashami, and scholarly discourses and conferences are arranged on global dimensions. Ramayana, for its literary and spiritual value, is discussed as a part of the curriculum in many major universities of America. Many of the famous scholars in these lands are not of Hindu origin, but theRamakatha has changed their lives forever.
    The Ramakatha has been the elixir of life from times immemorial. It was originally narrated by Shiva to Parvati, by Kakabhushundi to Garuda, by Yagnavalkya to Bharadwaj, and in Kaliyuga by Tulsidas to the ordinary folk. Though the Kaliyuga has many bad attributes which are well described in Ramayana, there is one good thing. A person can achieve the highest goal of life Moksha, liberation, by Bhakti, true devotion. This is not an easy task but the Ramakatha assures that this is within the reach of every human being if serious efforts are made. Ramakatha is synonymous with the Hindu culture thus where ever there is a Hindu, Ramakatha is also there.

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