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How Is Lord Ram ‘A Hero’ When He Abandoned His Wife And Unborn Children?

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By Apoorv Pathak:

As the nation celebrated Dussehra, Lord Ram, who is central to the pantheon of Indian gods and goddesses, was brought back into the limelight. Two of the most popular political figures in the country – Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal, who are usually divided on everything else, came together to chant Lord Ram’s name.

Yes, Lord Ram is an integral part of popular Hindu mythology and consequently Indian culture. But we rarely attempt to scrutinise his ‘moral’ status and the implications it has on our lives. Re-examining his character in light of modern progressive values might alter the image we have of him.

The kind of heroes a society celebrates says a lot about what the society is like. Our imagination of what makes someone a hero is shaped by the virtues and vices of society. These imaginations, in turn affect, and to some degree, determine what constitutes social morality for the next few generations. Society must be cautious of the heroes it chooses to embrace or at least, if nothing else, acknowledge their shortcomings.

I find it troubling to think that any person with a progressive mindset can worship a man who didn’t treat his wife well, a man whose actions were guided by regressive patriarchal notions. How can we celebrate and worship a person who didn’t just participate in shaming his wife Sita, but also added to her misery by forcing her into exile to ‘protect’ his image? If a man, so obsessed with his image, so quick to surrender to social prejudices, is held as an example to young minds, we only make it harder for anyone to challenge the perverse patriarchal mindset that continues to deprive women of their dignity and robs them of their agency. Also, what kind of a parent abandons their unborn children?

The caste system in India is an evil that’s deep-rooted. Lord Ram would, in this case, also be a poor example to give to the current generation. He was a proponent of the caste system. His act of getting Shambuka (a Shudra) killed at the behest of a Brahmin priest who was infuriated that a person belonging to a lower caste was present at a Brahmin-only function, is a glaring example of how he promoted the ways of one of the world’s most oppressive system of discrimination.

The above reasons were exactly why Ambedkar had implored the Indian society to disown a casteist icon like Ram. Now that Ambedkar’s ideas have gained acceptance across political parties, the most we can do is take his advice and act on it.

Not to forget, Ram also enjoyed the privileges of a king. It is a poor example to give to the new generation, in an age where the system of monarchy is against the very idea of equality. Feudal mindsets have saddled Indian society for generations, and when the ‘heroes’ we worship were also complicit in perpetuating feudal practices, the problem only grows.

There are other crucial shortcomings in Lord Ram’s character that one can talk about, but the case that I’m making is not that Ram should be shunned because he was not perfect. One is perfectly ready to look beyond imperfections, but what one can’t accept is that a character who displays the worst form of patriarchal, feudal and casteist behaviour, is even today, an icon that everyone looks up to.

We must all get a reality check; we must continually re-examine and re-assess whom we worship and why we continue to worship them day after day, year after year. With time, we too must evolve and leave regressive and discriminatory systems behind us.

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Image source: Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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  1. Tanumita Mishra

    Lord Rama has been glorified as the ‘Maryada Purushottam’ which means he followed propriety of conduct. He was an ideal son, an ideal brother, an ideal friend and undoubtedly an ideal ruler as prosperity and happiness bestowed upon his people during the ‘Rama-Rajya’. He, venerated as ‘Raja Rama’ declared that he would do anything to please his subjects be it even abandoning his wife for the sake of Raj-dharma. How can someone who restlessly struggled and spared no effort in searching for his beloved wife willingly forswear her with pleasure? He had to do this not because he personally doubted Sita but because of his duty as a king. Rama chose to give up his throne and kingdom rather than disowning his dear wife when he came to know about the opinion of his people regarding Sita’s character, but ultimately he could not do so, again due to his duties as a King.
    Adi kavi clearly captures Rama’s grief and pain of separation from Sita in her absence. He did not lead a happy life after that and kept his vow of ‘one-woman-man’ and this was the reason why he did not tie himself into a wedlock for the second time even for the successful completion of Ashwamedha yagya and instead placed a gold-made idol of Sita. His love and respect for Sita is pure and divine. He being consistent in his duties of a king gave up his own happiness and he should not be subjected to critical analysis on the basis of a single action of his. He took birth as a human and no human is perfect. So, may be, even he wasn’t but he gave clear lesson of sticking to one’s duties and decisions even if it demands the sacrifice of the beloved. And this adores him as next to perfect which no one else can be. So, his actions and character has to be understood and not challenged. Its our duty to interpret his actions in a right way.

    1. Kanav Sharma

      exactly.

    2. Gurtej

      But lord rama was “lord” too, alongwith being king. Being a lord, it was his duty to preach to and change the mindset of people, when they asked for exit of Sita. Was it her fault, if she got kidnapped ?

      Also, the caste point is also true. Lord rama did that. He fulfilled king’s role, but what about lord’s ?
      And if he was not perfect, then why call him LORD ?

  2. Shanthi Swaroop Reddy

    Uttara Khanda wasn’t in the original version, it ends with the Coronation.

  3. Prashant Kumar

    Ha Ha ,
    I don’t have words to express after reading your foolish and narrow-minded article. Haven’t you heard this “अधजल गगरी छलकत जाए” , Well it suits you as well as other progressive minded or cultured people.

    “The kind of heroes a society celebrates says a lot about what the society is like. Our imagination of what makes someone a hero is shaped by the virtues and vices of society.” You are true in 1st line here but for second line you have written exactly reverse. We as a society is here because of Ram not Ram is here because of us.

    Hope you are able to understand. Sorry for inadequate vocabulary and राम-राम

  4. CA Vivek Singh

    The comments here show how biased people are. If you worship someone, you will try your utmost to prove them right. Rama deserted sita because people in his kingdom were talking I’ll about him. He abandoned her for his false ego. Saying that it’s justified because his Praja wanted so would be stupid. A king’s duty is to do justice. He punished his wife for no fault of hers. The fact that he remained unmarried will not absolve him of the injustice done to sita. And above all, the killing of shambuka. He was killed because he was doing tapasya .This shows the deep casteism. And uttarkand is later addition??.If you search more, u will find that the Vedas are also a later addition, especially the 10th mandala of Rigveda which has the purush sikta, that is the origin of casteism. The finding that uttarkand is a later addition is given by historians who say that ram is a mythological character who didn’t exist. Either become scientific or believe mythology. Both are mutually exclusive. If anyone reads the Valmiki Ramayana, much of our understanding of Ramayana will be shattered. TV hides many things. Rise above all prejudices and assess things on the basis of facts given. Ram’s abandoning sita and killing shambuka are the biggest blots on his image as maryada purushottam.

  5. Shailesh Verma

    Stressing a miniscule part of the story and ignoring the broader perspective , culminating the reasonable ill with ill thoughts results in nonsense result.
    Your verbosity of written words is that result.

  6. Aditya Prakash

    Moral and ethical! Have you ever heard these words? It’s easy right? Write any gibberish and get it published! I once had the same argument with a really talented person! She made me question and re-think! But then i came in contact with a line -“what morally may be right, dose not mean its ethically should be right”! His ethical duties were to follow the rules set up by him or his ancestors, his moral duty was to save his wife! He choose duty over personal relationship! I think i said enough about our society!

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