In the views of many women, not only a great King but an outstandingly noble man.
It was with a sense of considerable anger that I read Prime Minister Modi’s comments on Ravana, the great King of Sri Lanka.
PM Modi seems to be unaware that many activists in India have diametrically opposite views to many men of India who view the Ramayana as a justification for feminine subjugation. They have done this for centuries.
Indian men often name their daughters Sita hoping they will be replicas of the humble and subservient heroine of the Ramayana. Rarely do Indian men name their daughters Draupadi after the feisty heroine of the Mahabharata, who dared to argue with men.
In my opinion (See article published by LMD titled “Is Ravana the Real Hero of the Ramayana” a few months ago) wherein I voiced the opinion that Ravana was to be the most admired in this great epic of India that has brought such tragedy to women for centuries by the views expressed therein on the suppression of women. Let us take a few facts.
1 Ravana obviously knew the art of aerodynamics since he abducted Sita using his flying machine that left her protector of the day, Lakshmana, helpless in the face of the advanced technology that Ravana knew of and practiced.
2 Sita was treated with great respect by this noble King who did not touch her sexually. He behaved with restraint and gallantry and was given the status of
3 Rama, on the other hand, fought a war and snatched Sita back only to repudiate her and banish her from Ayodhya, because his people grumbled she was no longer pure having lived with another man! Sita humbly accepted this unfair judgement. Apparently it never entered her head to ask what Rama had been up to all that time.
4 In the forest Sita brought up twin sons (The result of her brief reunion with Rama before exile). The sons grew up and challenged their father. DNA testing being unknown made it easier on the twins claim of paternity.
5 Suddenly made aware of the existence of TWO possible quarrelsome heirs, Rama forgives Sita and reinstates her as his queen.
6 The expected happens. The people grumble again and it does not occur to the chauvinistic Rama that she deserves his defence. He packs her off a second time. It is no wonder that Indian women were not allowed to read the Ramayana in the past. There would have been a ground swell of feminine indignation on Sita’s behalf.
7 At last Sita retaliates and refuses to accept all this tamely. She prays to Mother Earth for protection and she obligingly opens and swallows her up.
8 In the meantime let us take a look at Ravana. He was a man with a towering intellect. Apart from his knowledge of air flight, he is credited with the invention of the game of chess. Even the prejudiced ‘Ramayana” admits he had ten heads. In other words he had the brain power of ten men. In fact many Chess Clubs today bear the title ‘Ravana Clubs’ in his honour.
9 The well known Indian feminist Bina Agarwal’s famous poem, Sita Awake takes strong note of the denigration of women in this great epic and she strongly criticises the pro-Rama attitudes of the Ramayana. Women today ask why Sita and are outraged that she so tamely accepted gender based decrees.
No! Ravana was no terrorist as PM Modi says. He was, in the views of many women, not only a great King but an outstandingly noble man.
To my mind he was the real hero of the Ramayana and not the vacillating, chauvinistic Rama.