349pp, 699 rupees; Westland
After decades of controversy, the Supreme Court finally decided to build the Aries Temple on the presumed birthplace of the Lord. This is good news, not only because it will put an end to the sterile bitterness of the community in this matter, but also because the good temple for Rama in Ayodhiya would be a suitable way to inspire the Hindus to become a compassionate, caring, loving and kind person, who is one of the most popular deities in India.
But Ram was also in the news for the wrong reasons. Illegal fanatics have used Jai Sri Ram’s slogan for senseless acts of violence, crime and hatred that are an abomination of what Ram really means. These disparate elements do not know that Aries is a Mariadah of Purushottam, the embodiment of justice, a test tube with impeccable behavior, an example of the perfect man and the embodiment of the breed’s sauna, a harmonious balance.
By deliberately distorting the image of Lord Aries, it is now especially important that ordinary people understand who he is and what he really represents. In the most lyrical and exemplary way it was shown by Tulsidas (1532-1623 AD) in his remarkable epic Ramcharitmanas. Ramaritmanas is based on the much older Sanskrit epic of the Ramayana (which is otherwise dated between the 5th century BC and the 1st century BC) of Valmica. Ramaritmanas is a shorter version of the same story, but with a unique cachet of Tulsa’s intellectual greatness and pure poetic genius. Although shorter, it remains an epic consisting of 12,800 lines divided into 1,073 verses and seven candles or segments.
Mahatma Gandhi considered Ramcharitman to be the greatest book of all divine literature. Especially in the north of India, Manas is for the most part a Hindu synonym for the Bible. The book is also one of the world’s greatest literary works. Given the great influence of this work, especially since it was deliberately written not in Sanskrit but in Avadhi, the language spoken and understood by the masses, historian Vincent Smith described Tulsi as the greatest man of his time in India, even greater than Akbar. The linguist Sir George Griffith called him the greatest leader of the people after Buddha.
Ramawataram, 1828. Lithograph by Linda Francais, 1828. From the collection of Jean Claude Carrier.
How does Tulsi Rama describe? For him, Aries, according to the wise Valmica, that sab ke hitkari (loved and loved by all). He is the embodiment of good will, chivalrous and courageous, but always gentle and caring, compassionate towards the weak and vulnerable, generous towards the enemy, even if he punishes him for something wrong. There are countless examples to illustrate this central message of Tulsi, but given the limitations of space I would like to mention just a few. In Tulsi’s famous line, which describes the birth of Rama, he writes in the first line Der Bhaié pragata weinte, der Dekan gab…. According to Tulsi, the birth of Rama heralds a merciful person who always cares for the weak and needy. Further on in this verse Tulsi describes Ram as karuna sukh sagar, sab guna aagar – the one who is that reservoir of goodness and joy that is endowed with all the beneficial properties. He also calls him the Khan Anuragi – the one for whom every member of the people is loved and for whom he is equally loved.
When Rama meets Kaikei, one of the queens of Dashrat, who falsely conspired to steal his kingdom and banished him to the forest for 14 years, he is not angry and takes no revenge. On the contrary, he is indulgent, polite, loving and the image of cold-bloodedness par excellence. In full accordance with his essential character as Mariadah Purushottam, for whom he is venerated by millions of people, he says Kaikei: Suna Janani soi suta badbhagi, jo pitu maat bachan anuragi (Listen to the mother, this son is blessed, he has the chance to obey his mother and father with love).
Pavan K Varma
courtesy of Westland
It is also instructive to understand the description of Tulsi Ram Rajia, the social utopia dear to every follower or mincer of God. Ram Rajia, known as Tulsi, is a place where Daihik Daiquiq, bhautik tapa, Ram Rajia Nahin Kahui bayapa, sab nar karahin parapar priti, halakhin svadharma nirat sruti thread (No one suffers from physical, mental or material inferiority, everyone lives in love and harmony, and everyone follows their religion peacefully). For those who have gone astray, who use the name of Aries to impose violence and cruelty on others, it is vital that they really understand what Tulsi believes, what Aries thinks in this respect. The Lord himself summarizes his faith – and in many ways illustrates the essence of Hindu religion – when he speaks about it with his younger brother Bharat: Parachita saris dharam nahhi bhai, parpida nahin atmai itself (The welfare of others is the greatest Dharma, and the injury of others is the greatest sin).
Read more: Adi Shankaracharya – The greatest thinker of Hinduism Pavan K Varma
The real purpose of this book is to make a selection of Tulsidas Ram’s great ode available to as many readers as possible in a readable, accessible and enjoyable form. Ramcharitman is an epic. It is a brilliant literary work that sparkles from beginning to end. But because it is an epic and written in the language of the Awadhi, not everyone can read it from beginning to end or understand the full meaning of these verses, contrary to their good intentions. However, it is a work of too great literary and spiritual value – full of nuggets of pure wisdom – to be read at all. Hence the attempt to present a shorter version of the epic with carefully selected fragments that – in my opinion – represent the best examples of the grandeur of Tulsi’s writings and the inspiring profile of Lord Ram. Given the enormous wealth of material, the selection itself was a very difficult task. Translations into Hindi and English are available, as well as a selection. They have been taken over by Gita Press, which stands out for its loyalty and linguistic quality. Finally, my comments are added to each volume so that the reader can understand not only the text, but also the context, the background, the characters, the argument and the meaning of the poet’s story.
Only if ordinary Indians are aware of the true values associated with Mariad Purushottam Ram, and the pen of Tulsi, one of his most devout bhaktas, can we really – without distortion – say Jai Shri Ram.
Pavan K. Varma – writer and politician. His last book is Lord Ram’s greatest ode: Ramcharitmanas Tulsidas, published by Westland, March 2020. He is also the author of the book Adi Shankaracharya: The greatest thinker in Hinduism.