Random Magazine

In Defence of Ram

By Alka Narula @narulaalka

Once again we  have Suresh ( http://www.jambudweepam.blogspot.in ) as a guest blogger on random. who got me into deep thoughts after reading and here it goes
                                                   In defence of Ram
It is ironic that the only Puranic male character who has some claims towards striking a blow for male-female equality is the one character that needs defending against accusations of Male chauvinism. In an era where chastity was imposed only on women and born to a man who was well-known for the multiplicity of his marriages, Ram is the only character who accepted and lived by the idea that chastity was as applicable to men as to women.
Three major accusations are raised against Ram. Firstly that Sita had to follow him to the forest; secondly the Agni-Pariksha and lastly the abandonment of Sita when a Dhobi took exception to Ram taking back Sita after her long incarceration by Ravan. Lots of ridicule has been heaped on Ram - for the last two in particular – and, largely because feminists seem to have swallowed – hook, line and sinker - the spin put on these acts by male chauvinists of later days.There is another male character that followed Ram to the forest – Lakshman. He was also married and, yet, his wife Urmila is not the subject of any diatribe for not having lived up to her wifely duties. Even though it was at Lakshman’s behest, if Society had thought of this as a wifely duty, there would have been a hue and cry about this fact. The fact remains that (a) there was no duty imposed on the wife to follow her husband like Mary’s little lamb (b) It was Sita who insisted on following Ram to the forest because she loved him too much to stand the separation and (c) Ram dissuades her from following him citing the hardships that she would have to face but is unable to sway her.So, when a husband of today seeks that his wife follows him wherever he went a la Sita, the proper retort is that, “If you were Ram, I’d love you like Sita and follow you. But if you were Ram, you would love me enough not to ask me to follow you into hardship!” Unfortunately, the standard reaction is to heap ridicule on Ram!The one thing that is discounted when it comes to the other two incidents is that Ram loved Sita. He goes mad with grief when Sita is abducted. When, on the battlefield, a Maya Sita is slaughtered he drops his weapons and feels that pursuing the battle further is pointless. That, in fact, gives the lie to the statement he makes before the Agnipariksha about fighting the battle only for his honor. If it is difficult to swallow the idea of a man loving his wife, think then of the fact that Ram never remarried after putting Sita aside and lived a life of chastity till the end.Ram was not only a husband. Ever since Bharat met him at Chtrakoot, he knew he was to be the King. The King was expected to be an upholder of Social values – no matter how unjust they may be for order is better than anarchy – and if he is seen to have bent the rules for his own benefit he leads to anarchy. “Yata Raja Tatha Praja” as the saying goes!To have accepted Sita without a qualm would have lead to people in his country considering that the King did not respect the rules by which Society abided. Further, for a man who had practically just got off the chariot of the King of the Gods, it need not be difficult to believe that the God of Fire would not harm his beloved since she was chaste.Much is also said of the way Ram abandoned Sita merely because a dhobi told his wife, “I am not Ram to accept a wife who lived in another man’s house”, especially with reference to the fact that Sita had already proved her chastity by going through fire. Again, the decision was not based on what Ram thought of Sita or what he would have preferred to do. If one were to assume the fact that he loved Sita to distraction, he would have loved to have his children born in his palace and lived around him or, even, that he would have preferred not to live in total abstinence, it would be easy to understand that his own preference would have been to ignore the dhobi. What, then, caused him to set aside his beloved wife?In an era of no you-tube, no TV, no Facebook ot Twitter, the people of Ayodhya could not know of the Agnipariksha except through the words of people close to Ram. In any case against the powerful, proof positive would be difficult to obtain to prove a person guilty. The rulers of then were expected to live by a harsher standard of justice and accusation was considered sufficient for punishment – the “Caesar’s wife has to be above suspicion” phenomenon. In the event that Ram had ignored the dhobi, it is not difficult to see how the people of Ayodhya may have considered Sita as less than chaste over a period of time and started citing that as an example for their own transgressions of the law.It was Ram the king who had to decide to put off Sita much against Ram the husband’s preferences. He lived by the law that the ruler has to put the good of Society above his own personal loss. If that is difficult to swallow as an explanation, consider the fact that he had to later sentence his beloved younger brother – Lakshman – to death for transgressing an order under unavoidable circumstances. If, indeed, one had to think of Ram as unfeeling it is nonetheless true that he was no male chauvinist – after all Lakshman was not female.We live in times when it is considered acceptable that people in power use their power to save their kith and kin from the results of their own transgressions and, thus, find it difficult to understand why a ruler could punish his kin – when he knew they were innocent. The idea that Society suffers a moral malaise if the ruler is even thought to have set his own preferences above the law has, unfortunately, become totally alien to us.Accusing Ram of chauvinism is not only unjust, it is unproductive as well. Our Society is still largely composed of people who revere Ram as God incarnate. By accepting the male chauvinistic spin on his actions and heaping ridicule on him we only preach to the already convinced. It is best to propagate his sense of male-female equality and his attitude towards the duties of a ruler, as indeed was probably intended by the writers of the Puranas.photo credit google search

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