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Above: Ten-headed Ravan -- Hindu arch-villain in North India, a Hindu demi-god in South India.

Fiction

President Pranab Mukherjee's Message to the Nation (India) on Dussehra

GIRISH K.N. YADAV

 

 

 

The religious festival of Dussehra is being celebrated by the Hindus of Northern India this week, with its grand annual finale on Monday, October 14, 2013.

It is one of the most important Hindu festivals, and involves celebrations over the course of ten days, recalling the tragic abduction of Sita, the wife of Ram, the king of Ayodhya, by Ravan, the “Maha Brahmin” ruler of Sri Lanka who was also a great devotee of Lord Shiva.

Each year, communities across North India re-live in great detail the kidnapping of Ram‘s consort, the search for her and her ultimate rescue after a confrontation between the forces of the Hindu King of Ayodhya and those of the Hindu King of Sri Lanka.

The annual re-enactment, known as Ram Leela, culminates in the burning of three giant effigies which are constructed in Hindu neighbourhoods in every village, town and city. The three villains thus publicly vanquished every year are the southern King Ravan and his brother, Kumbhakaran, and his (Ravan‘s) son, Meghnath.

The crowds participating in these celebration also get great merriment in watching the act of cutting off the nose of Surpanakha, Ravan’s sister, who is always depicted as particularly ugly, ill-natured and having oversized breasts. The drama of the mutilation and public disgrace of the woman is personally performed by an actor depicting Ram’s brother, Lakshman.

The North has been revelling in such enactments for centuries, quite indifferent to the fact that hundreds of millions of Hindus living in other parts of India continue to venerate Ravan and his family as their own gods and goddesses. 

Thus, the epic poem Ramayan, which is the inspiration behind the Ram Leela and is one of the bulwarks of modern Hinduism, is the tale of an ancient conflict between the Hindu gods of the North and the Hindu gods of the South.

The following is an imagined “address to the nation” by India’s President Pranab Mukherjee on the eve of this year’s Burning of The Effigies, keeping in mind that he presides over a government that rules over both the North and the South.

*   *   *   *   *

Rashtrapati Bhavan
New Delhi, India
October 7, 2013

Before I wish your good selves my best wishes on this festive season, I would like to first make the following plea to the people of India, but especially those Hindus who celebrate this great holiday with pomp and revelry.

The incidents around the kidnapping and defilement of Sita Maiyya (Mother Sita) and the alleged riots that followed, took place in the Treta Yug, the second of the four eons of Hindu chronology -- the current period being, as you know, the Kali Yug.

Which means that the riots alleged in the great poem, the Ramayan, took place. at the very least, about 2600 years ago. Many experts will tell you that the time line could be much, more older.

Therefore, given the time lapse, I wish to ask all of you, the good people of this land, whether it is not time now to move on … to forgive and forget … and to let bygones be bygones.

That does not mean that our government will not continue to diligently pursue the alleged culprits involved in the riots which are so meticulously evidenced in the Ramayan. I assure you that we will soon get to the bottom of what happened and bring justice to the victims.

But, in the meantime, I repeat, now that thousands of years have gone by, surely it is time to let go of old conflicts, and move on … for the betterment of this great nation.

Let us therefore stop this annual Ram Leela and the burning of effigies for the sake of national unity. Your agreement to adhere to my call will not only bring us together after this millennia-old conflict that has torn us apart, but may also encourage our dear Sikh brothers and sisters who keep on complaining about the lack of justice over the alleged incidents that took place in June and November 1984 and the decade that followed -- that is, 29 long years ago in the distant past.

Yes, let us put behind us all the riots that make up the building blocks of our great history -- going back all the way to the great (alleged) riots between the Kauravas and the Pandavas of Mahabharat fame, down to the more recent riots (alleged) in our history, such as the riots of 1857; or the riot in which Mohandas Gandhi got shot; the riot in which Indira Gandhi was killed; the riot in which Rajiv Gandhi died, and so on and so forth ... all those riots that have followed every year, year after year, to this very day.

Yes, please … let us all move on … let us all forgive and forget. After all, we are one big, happy family.

Have a wonderful Dussehra.

Jai Hind.   

 

 

October 7, 2013 
 

Conversation about this article

1: Radhika Biswas (Kolkata, India), October 07, 2013, 5:14 AM.

You've hit the nail right on the head, Mr Yadav. Thank you for your forthrightness.

2: Jaya R. Murthy (Karnataka, India), October 07, 2013, 5:20 AM.

The Ramayan is nothing but a one-sided account of the invasion of the Aryans into Dravidian territory. It's a pseudo-religious text and certainly does not withstand the slightest scrutiny, either historically, or spiritually, or as a purportedly literary document. It's no more than a crude fairy tale concocted to serve the purposes of a pre-historic invading horde.

3: Harsharan Kaur (Michigan, USA), October 07, 2013, 5:24 AM.

And they want us to forget 1984?

4: Arthur Segal (New York, USA), October 07, 2013, 5:36 AM.

India is such a riot, isn't it? A riot here, a riot there, riots everywhere! Eeya ... Eeya ... Oh!

5: G C Singh (USA), October 07, 2013, 11:10 AM.

In 'treta yug' there was one Ravan, and now in the land of Ram, we have millions of Ravans - many of whom occupy powerful positions in the Indian Cabinet, the Indian parliament, corporate boards, military and police services. Instead of symbolic burning of the effigies during Dussehra, would not it be more useful for some real time fireworks against the actual Ravans who populate almost every city, district and village in India?

6: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), October 07, 2013, 1:14 PM.

Instead of morbid superstition and mythology, could someone teach these people to feed, clothe and educate each other AND keep a lid on its population?

7: Kanwarjeet Singh (USA), October 07, 2013, 1:50 PM.

Glad one Mr. Yadav wrote this off his own conscience. If this was written by a Sikh, the entire desi janta would have labelled him/her a terrorist. When the praja (the subjects) does not care, the raja (ruler) will not deliver! The desi public have become slaves to their own laziness and attitudes.

8: Raj (Canada), October 07, 2013, 7:13 PM.

I know lots of Northern Hindus who throw insults at South-Indians because of their complexion. There's a reason why South-Indians hate speaking Hindi, which they consider a foreign language. I remember in the late seventies, there was a student movement from the South demanding their own country carved out of South India called "Dravid Desham".

9: Taran (California, USA), October 07, 2013, 7:46 PM.

Forget 1984? Forgive, yes, but forget, never. Sikhs fight for justice ... past, present and future.

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