Symbolic Festivities

November 15, 2010
We celebrate so many festivals throughout the year.  some don't make sense to me, and some... well make me ponder.  But this festival makes me feel sad. It's Dussehra.

I have written extensively on Raavan and why I feel we could not understand him or probably we chose not to understand him.  You can read my views on Raavan, Ram and Sita in my posts Defending Raavana and Raavana Is In My Soul.  Here is a glimpse.

"OK, alright, yes he abducted another man's wife but did not force himself.  He fought a fair war for what he thought was right in his eyes.  After all, women were used for political reasons like commodities (defeated kings offering their daughters for marriage to the winner etc).  Also, I fail to understand why Laxman is in no one's bad books for slashing the nose of a (demon) young girl, who showed interest in him?!!  When women could be won, or lost, or earned, or whatever then why, in that era, such hue and cry for stealing a woman?  From that point of view, what should be the punishment for raping one's own daughter? Should THEIR effigies not burnt then?  Raavan, still, had the courage to fight, actually fight a war for that woman (how flattering is that now !!!)"
This year too, effigies of Raavana, along with his brother Kumbhkaran and son Meghnad, were burned, with loads of crackers, fun, dandiya, music, and chaat papdi stalls.  I too attended the local celebration. 

But I was pained, as always.  Seeing him stand there, at the mercy of people, common men and women, who themselves don't understand the meaning of the festival.  For them, he is the demon, but nobody will think how was Ram as a husband and as a father. Was a woman called Sita wronged somewhere? Who's bothered.  I hear some new TV serial is coming called "Ganga ki Dheej", (what does that mean?) which also talks how can a woman give proof of her purity. Uff! I have no words. All this just defies logic for me.

But, this year witnessing the effigy of Raavana go up in flames brought out some more painful thoughts in my mind.  Just a month back, I heard, there was a video clip of a young boy who got electrocuted while climbing over the top of a stationary train in Australia, and some one commented about this horrific scene as "this could be a way to get rid of Indian students from Australia" (not the exact words, but something like this) . He surely had to face the wrath of the world.  It was such a shameful thing to say.
leftovers of dussehra

But, that is what I felt like seeing the dark, slim and tall effigy of Raavan beginning to spark and burn from the top (or at least that is how it looked to me). 

Through this festival, are we not promoting the feelings of violence? Are we not saying it is OK to see some person, or his symbolic presence, to be burned and mutilated? Raavana is looked down upon, humiliated every year.  We celebrate the victory of goodness over evil.  But, have we ever questioned our choices?  What was evil in that era, is the norm of this era.  If we really see, we, the common man would be at par (or rather worst than him in many cases) with the villian of that era.  Is it not time, we change the symbols of evil?  Is it not time we understand that raping a woman is worst than abducting and then waiting for that woman to accept your love? Okay, yes, agreed Raavana had ego, which ruined his kingdom.  Do we not have ego?  Where does the modern man stand in front of Raavana?

But still, Raavana will be burned, his effigy filled with expensive big crackers will go up in flames each year.  We will be left with the wooden carcass of the evil demon lying helplessly on the ground surrounded by the paper, ash and half burnt pieces of shells, every year. 

It's time we question our choices. It's time we understand the true meaning of the festival.  It's time we win over the devil in our selves - our ego, our selfishness, our pettiness, our greed, and our lust before we dare to touch the Raavana. 



Jack said...


Read this one as well as ones mentioned by navigating. I think that for most of people such festivals are just another holiday and for fun & frolic. We do not remember the cause for such days. Now coming to Ravan, I too agree that he was a scholar and brave king. There is nothing which suggests that he maltreated his subjects or went on looting rampages. Who has seen the original manuscripts of Ramyana as written by Tulsidas or Balmiki? It is just a matter of faith and belief making us incapable of raising genuine questions. A time capsule was burried deep near Red Fort sometime in 1970s. This had miniture photographs. Who knows that thousands of years after this world is destroyed by nuclear war but descendants of those who survived in deep jungles etc will make out of these photographs when dug out at that time? Another epic may be written then.

Take care

Neo The Hacker said...

Truly a contrarian view. But at the same time you have expressed it beautifully and quite convincingly. I suppose it reminded me of a book which is banned in india. One by the name rama retold written by aubrey menon. It speaks of ram as a villan of the story.

A Restless Mind With A Sensitive Heart! said...

Jack, good to know some one else also thinks like me!

Ah! didn't know about the time capsule thing, thanks for sharing!



A Restless Mind With A Sensitive Heart! said...

Neo, yes, I know my views are contrary to what I, and we have generally grown up with. Just don't know how and why I started thinking like that. My mom will kill me if she knows this...she is such a religious person!! But, anyways, this is how I think, and I am fine with it!

You are right about the book, some one else too told me about it, reading my last posts. Would like to read this book some time, but it is banned na? hmm.

wtg to hear from u, on the other posts! tc


Reema said...

totally agree with u..I wonder how has the author Ashok Banker characterised Ravan in his version of Ramayan.

dr.antony said...

Interesting view.From childhood, all of us were taught that he was a bad guy and Hanuman ,as a joker.The victory of good over bad..was the story.You have triggered a new version of thinking.I have already started thinking,yes,he was not such a bad guy compared to many of our ordinary men.At least he didnt rape Sita!

Anonymous said...

hello there thanks for your grat post, as usual ((o:

Neo The Hacker said...

If you have noticed my views too are contrarian most of the times and this way our paths do cross at times. Btw, its not ravan alone our epics are full of men and women who are grey and not black and white. Take for example yudishtir or duryodhan or karna. They all have their share of goodness and the pandavas their vices. Duryodhan was very loyal to his friend and karna was famous for his generousity. He refused to succumb to kunti's emotional blackmail and remained loyal to his foster parents and his friends. So do duryodhan by gifting karna vast spaces of land when he was humiliated. So i would say all are painted in grey but we are used to hearing about them being either black or white only.

A Restless Mind With A Sensitive Heart! said...

Neo, of course I have noticed, observed that.

You are right, why only black and white, I distrust such ppl who are either too white and disbelieve the one's who are portrayed as black. There are greys in all of us, shades differ.

We must see a person in totality, and avoid forming images seeing one good or bad deed done by him.

thanks for ur valuable comments. Like this one, on duryodhan and karna.



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