The climactic battle between Rama and Ravana in the epic Ramayana makes for an engaging read. The demon army of Ravana lay vanquished, his allies dead. But Ravana, the biggest and baddest gangsta of ‘em all keeps fighting with all his might. And what a fight he gives for he is well versed in the ways of warfare. The monkey army, even the mighty Hanuman accompanied by Laxman, Vivhishan (Ravana’s brother who switched sides and came over to the winning camp), watch in awe as Rama, having gotten better for Ravana, sends a well aimed arrow which severs his head. But the cries of victory are cut short for Ravana magically sprouts another head in place of the one cut off and fights on. This happens a number of times more until the novelty kind of wears off and Rama wonders how he would ever get rid of this goon who seems to have an unlimited supply of heads. Then Vivhishan whispers a secret to Rama – A pot of the nectar of immortality, Amrit, lies in the navel of Ravana which is the secret of his immortality. Rama then shoots at the navel with his deadly arrows. Lo and Behold, the demon king finally falls. Diwali signifies the return of the triumphant Rama to his home Ayodhya accompanied by Sita, Laxman and Hanuman.
I used to find this story fascinating as a kid, whenever my brother and I would get an elder to tell the story we would listen with rapt attention. The glow of victory that Rama, Laxman and Hanuman felt would rub off a little on us and make us feel like little victors ourselves who had defeated an evil king. This must have been one reason the epic was written on the first place, to identify with the forces of good that battle evil. But like most stories in the Epic, this episode has layers of symbolism and lessons which is fascinating to explore. And make no mistake this episode has lessons for us that we could really use just about now.
For are we not faced with Ravanas in current age and day?
Yes we are. Today’s Ravana appear to us in many shapes and forms - Corrupt Governments, unethical businesses abusive husbands, children who don’t care for their aged parents, godmen in the unholy business of making a quick buck in the name of god, religious fanatics, dishonest officials and so many things else. I don’t know, guys, I sometimes get an overwhelming feeling that there are some posteriors out there that are in dire need of some foot contact.
But is the solution taking the evil head-on and try the bang the living wits out of it?
Those among us who are brave enough take up a battle against certain wrongs do so, such as Anna Hazare fights on against the Corruption in Government. However for every politician that people like him succeed in getting defeated, maybe another equally corrupt takes place exactly as every dishonest official who is removed could be replace by one who is a bigger rogue. Just as the never ending heads of Ravana.
So could the way evil is vanquished lie hidden in the story that the epic tells?
The most effective way to vanquish something is to remove the source of that thing’s sustenance. Denying water shall kill a sapling, denying a float will cause a piece of iron to sink. Naval represents symbolically sustenance, because of the umbilical cord that ends there when a child is in the womb. So what Vivishan’s advice implies is remove the power that sustains the many heads of Ravana and you get rid of ‘em all. Easy Peasy.
The street side goon, the eve-teaser preys on the sheer cowardice of people on the street, the unwillingness to get into trouble. The corrupt politicians thrive on our identification with their community, caste or whatever other narrow prism we use; instead of judging them by what they stand for or have achieved. The corrupt officials in most cases is sustained by our greed or laziness or a desire to stay ahead whatever be the means. Once these vermin are created they establish themselves and prey on people’s helplessness.
At the risk of making a motherhood statement, let me say that I believe that the only way to make these modern day Ravana’s go away would be to make it not worthwhile to be what they are. If a politican knows that if he is perceived corrupt, inapt or a rogue he has no chance of getting back to the seat of power regardless of whether he is a lingyat, muslim, dalit, upper caste or whatever else, we would have killed one Ravana. And if every Roadside Romeo had the threat of public thrashing followed by a stint in jail, we would have removed our fear that sustains them. Losing our superstitions would take steam out of many of the fake God-men who claim to be miracle workers.
The change has to start with us.
And that’s where we have to face our biggest Ravana. Facing our demons If I look inside, I see a scaring looking Ravana inside me as well. This Ravana is greedy and provides substance to all corrupt people who are in the society, this Ravana is a coward and provides sustenance to the all kinds of anti socials. Worst of all this bugger is lazy, smug, self satisfied, brimming with advice for things that he wants others to do while he continues in his own wallowing in darkness. He is the reason why the society as a whole gets flushed down the drain pipe.
Killing that Ravana by denying the Greed, Anger, Desire, Laziness that feeds and sustains him be really the true Satyamava Jayate.
Jai Shri Ram.