Rama – was he a good man?

Ramayana and Mahabharata, the two Hindu epics  are a fantastic study in the various shades and hues of the human psyche.  Although written over 1,000 years ago (or so we believe) these are still very relevant because at a fundamental level humans and the drivers of human emotion and action haven’t changed over the centuries. 

For me personally, the most challenging task is to remove the religious context, read it as pure fiction and be objective about my views on the ‘characters’ – mainly because I am a strong believer!  When I detach the spiritual side from the objective side, I am presented with a treasure chest that throws deep insight into the human psyche which I find RIVETING!! 

Each time I read the Ramayana I ask myself these questions – so who is really good and who is bad?  What is used as a yardstick for good or bad?  Who makes up these yardsticks?  In the current day context, are these yardsticks valid?  I am faced with many questions …. and the mind struggles with the answers mainly because the mind is preconditioned by what it has been taught from the time it could think!  My definition of good is often at odds with the definition of good in the Ramayana.

If I remove the halo of ‘Avatara Purusha’ from Ram’s head, he comes across as a very average and self centred man.  He cared for his reputation more than he cared about those he loved.  To him his duties as a king took precedence over his duties as a human being.  Yes, he loved his wife and was devoted to her but there was no acceptable justification for the way he treated her.  He fulfilled his duties as a king and ruler but he miserably failed in his duties as a husband, father and human being.  Sita was his responsibility as much as his kingdom – so why did he not take that responsibility seriously.  Because, this didn’t offer a path to everlasting glory??  What kind of  a man would banish his pregnant wife for a whim.  Why Sita tolerated this, I will never understand.  Yes there are many explanations in the book but personally, I can relate to Draupadi’s fiery and feisty nature more than I can to Sita’s earthy patient nature.  Now, if treating a person with kindness is a yardstick for being ‘good’, Ram fails miserably.  They say of all the sins in the world ‘hurting a woman’ is the worst sin.  By this definition he is sinner too!

By contrast, Ravan who is personified as evil himself is not so evil when you read the story.  Yes he is smitten by Sita’s beauty and falls in love with her.  He abducts her hoping that one day she will agree to accept him.   Yes, by the moral standpoint of current day society, capturing another man’s wife is wrong and to capture an unwilling woman is wrong but there ends the streak of evil.  He is portrayed as a god fearing, learned man with a good heart.  Not once does he force himself upon Sita.  He could have.  Of course, there is the notion that he didn’t do so because of the curse upon him that if he forced a woman, that would bring about his destruction.  Even so, I’d like to think that on face value of the facts presented in the book, he had more conviction and was much more in tune with his finer emotions that Ram.  Yes, there are shades of evil but he is largely a good man.

My fascination for these sorts of stories is that when you look at the characters, there is no person who is entirely good or entirely bad.  It is people like us who develop these cliché’s and stereotypes.  There are shades of grey and it is the shades of grey that make humans so fascinating.

Maybe I am not the only one who thinks these kind of ‘offbeaat’ thoughts!  Mani Ratnam’s Raavanan certainly presents all my thoughts beautifully on screen.  Loved the movie, loved the way he told my story exactly the way it played in my mind.  I believe most people in the audience would have wanted Veera (Ravana) to live happily ever after with Ragini (Sita) and that is telling something about his story telling skills!   Alright, I know I am going to cop a lot of abuse for saying things like this especially because if you look at this from a religious context, there are much deeper messages that what meet the eye, but I am a simple person!!

And one last word, there are varied views and reviews about Raavana but I bow to Mr Mani Ratnam’s guts to take on taboo topics and deliver them with conviction!  No, Raavanan didn’t touch me like Mouna Ragam or Nayakan but his class is undeniable!

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8 thoughts on “Rama – was he a good man?

  1. Sands June 21, 2010 / 11:04 pm

    You are the first one that I know of who had good things to say about the movie. But as I read what you have to say, I realize it may be a tad too radical for a good percentage of the audience. Now I got to watch it 🙂

  2. myanasworth June 22, 2010 / 4:29 am

    I watched the Tamil version and I hear that all bad reviews are about the Hindi version …. watch it! It is a visual treat .. if nothing else!

  3. The Print Lover June 22, 2010 / 7:42 pm

    I have not read Ramayana completely. Only hear say. But I thought Ravana was never in love with Sita. He kidnapped her to take revenge on Rama (for the Soorpanaka episode) but as long as she was under his control, he trated her like a lady. Ravana was a devoted husband to his wife Mandothari.

    I think it depends on which verison of the Ramayana you are reading. Valmiki portrays Ravana as a evil demon king and Kambar passively glorified Ravanan.

    As for Mani Ratnam, I havent watched the movie, but dont expect much. He is very good for a tamil audience (Kannathil Muthamittal, Nayagan etc) but he bites off more than he can chew with the bilinguals. And what is gutsy about a movie based on Ramayana? He has already done spin offs of Mahabaratha (Thalapathi), Ambani (Guru), that Mumbai don (Nayagan), MK and MGR (Iruvar). I feel he has run out of original ideas and has started basing all his movie ideas on biographies.

  4. myanasworth June 22, 2010 / 9:10 pm

    Adan sonnene … we create stereotypes – Valmiki portrayed Rama as God and the personification of all good …. and that is fair. My point is not about who is good or who is bad but more about no one is entirely good or entirely bad .. ille?

    Mani Ratnam – agree his bilinguals are disastrous. I watched the Tamil and loved the Tirunelveli dialogues – added nativity to the movie. Hindi – its hard for him to do. Whatever we say about him, there is no denying that he is one of our best 🙂 Ideas are never original – they have all been tried and tested. Original nu paatha Angadi Theru dan original and Pasanga was original but who would have liked these?

    Go watch it and tell me what you think!

  5. Reva July 14, 2010 / 9:14 pm

    Oh.. you are not the only one with such thoughts. I have always argued that Rama was a bad husband and father. I know how much a stir I create at home when I start talking about such things!
    Yours are the very same reasons why I liked Raavanan. Haven’t watched Angadi theru yet, but loved Pasanga. 🙂

    • myanasworth July 14, 2010 / 11:18 pm

      Ouch … that wouldn’t have been an easy argument. Thats why I left it at ‘was he a good man’ .. because if we look at him as God, things can be argued very differently … ille? Thanks Reva for stopping by and commenting. Watch Angaadi Theru if you can .. its serious but its fresh 🙂

      • Sivam September 6, 2015 / 6:41 pm

        Your stroy is amazing. This statements are mimic my thoughts. I blindly agree with you post. Apart from the avatar ram was just blow the normal human beings.

      • myanasworth September 6, 2015 / 8:54 pm

        Thank you for your comments!

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