History, Literature and Religious Sentiments

Time and again, some affiliates of BJP, the second national political party do something that shames any sane persons. It happened this time in Delhi University. BJP affiliated student activists, sometimes I feel like calling them terrorist, created problem. They found an essay by A.K. Ramanujan, on the many Ramayanas living across languages and narrative genres, as the reason for protest and vandalism.

Many years ago, I procured a book ‘The Ramayana tradition in Asia’ published by Sahitya Akademi and edited by V.Raghavan. It has articles written by many on the different Ramayanas of Asia. It was an old publication dating 1980. Ramanujan has not written anything new. Many years ago, I had read a similar book by Father Kamil Bulke in Hindi “Ram katha ki utapati aur bikash”. Many have written the Rama story in their own way. Valmiki was perhaps the first to write the Epic that forms the basis. But most popular one in India and perhaps the religiously most respected is Tulsidas Ramcharitmanas. It may be one of the largest selling books today in the world. I keep on reading and completing it once every month as a religious ritual. Even Tulsidas has talked about the different poets who have written the story of Rama. Ramanujan has a story that is similar to one Kagbhushundi mentions in Uttar Kanda of Ramcharitmans about the simultaneous presence of Rama in different lokas. I feel like quoting one story from the Ramanujan’s paper.

One day when Rama was sitting on his throne, his ring fell off. When it touched the earth, it made a hole in the ground and disappeared into it. It was gone. His trusty henchman, Hanuman, was at his feet. Rama said to Hanuman, “Look, my ring is lost. Find it for me.”

Hanuman can enter any hole, no matter how tiny. He had the power to become the smallest of the small and larger than the largest thing. So he took on a tiny form and went down the hole.

He went and went and went and suddenly fell into the netherworld. There were women down there. “Look, a tiny monkey! It’s fallen from above!” Then they caught him and placed him on a platter (thali). The King of Spirits (bhut), who lives in the netherworld, likes to eat animals. So Hanuman was sent to him as part of his dinner, along with his vegetables. Hanuman sat on the platter, wondering what to do.

While this was going on in the netherworld, Rama sat on his throne on the earth above. The sage Vasistha and the god Brahma came to see him. They said to Rama, “Your work in the world of human beings is over. Your incarnations as Rama must now be given up. Leave this body, come up, and rejoin the gods.” So Rama summoned all his followers and arranged for the coronation of his twin sons, Lava and Kusa. Then he went to the river Sarayu and disappeared in the flowing waters.

All this while, Hanuman was in the netherworld. When he was finally taken to the King of Spirits, he asked Hanuman, “Why have you come here?”

“Rama’s ring fell into a hole. I’ve come to fetch it.”

The king showed him a platter. On it were thousands of rings. They were all Rama’s rings. The king said, “Pick out your Rama’s ring and take it.”

They were all exactly the same. “I don’t know which one it is,” said Hanuman, shaking his head.

The King of Spirits said, “There have been as many Ramas as there are rings on this platter. When you return to earth, you will not find Rama. This incarnation of Rama is now over. Whenever an incarnation of Rama is about to be over, his ring falls down. I collect them and keep them. Now you can go.”

So Hanuman left.

There is nothing religious in it. Why should there be protest and vandalizing of the department for this? Let at least the student community at university level be not play with such an

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