I was pained to hear that Mr. Sitaram Yechury felt that Ramayana and Mahabharata are books of violence and by association all Hindus are violent. I wasn’t surprised by his statement though. It was expected but what was unexpected was the deafening silence around that statement. There wasn’t an outrage at equating books I consider sacred and holy to terrorism. I felt like going upto him and slapping him hard and beat some sense into him. But then that would perfectly fit into their narrative of a violent Hindu. So I took recourse to the one thing a true Hindu believes in. Informed debate.
So let me talk about the things I learned from the epics called Ramayana and Mahabharata. For arguments sake let us consider Rama not to be a God but just an ordinary human being. Now what did this ordinary human being achieve that made billions of Hindus worship him as their God? I remember when I was a kid and I had fever, I felt terrible. I went upto my mom and complained that I wasn’t feeling good and she used to hug me tightly and assured me not to worry and asked me to chant of lord Rama in my mind and go to sleep. The chant might just have been a placebo to calm my mind or may be it was the warmth of my mother’s bosom or her love for me, whatever might be the reason, the name had a soothing effect on me as a child and I quickly went into a blissful sleep.
But this name piqued my curiosity. Why was this name so effective in curing me of my malady? So I did what I was taught to do by my parents. I started reading books. While reading these books it gradually dawned on me that they were not some random novels and after years of trying to understand and interpret them, the true essence of these epics dawned on me. They were the guide to a person wanting to choose a path. Lets take short version because discussing about these great epics can end into pages and pages of writing.
Rama was the first born kid of Dasarath and Kaushalya. He was known to be a person whose will could not be bent or broken. He was a dutiful son, a loving husband and brother. But what sets him apart from us mere mortals is the fact that he lived his life till the end for the benefit of others. Not once did he take a selfish decision. As a King he kept the welfare of his people above his and did not hesitate in sending the only woman he loved to the forest. Naysayers and critques will argue about his heartless decision or find some fault with the man. But those who have read the Ramayana in its entirety understand the true essence of it and those who want to belittle pick at something without the context of that event.
I am not here to argue with them. My point is, whether Rama is fictional or real, whether he is God or Human isn’t the debate but the values one can learn from him. And from Ramayana I learnt the importance of respecting your parents, the sincere love of a husband, brother and above all the importance of keeping the welfare of the Rajya you are a part of above everything else.
Now the Mahabharata, in short there are many things we can learn as this wasn’t a battle between two different kingdoms but between two sets of brothers. In this battle of Good vs Evil, one understands the path Adharma leads to. In fact, after the end of the war, no progeny from either the Kurus or the Pandavas survive except the son of the pregnant wife of Abhimanyu, Pareekshit, at the time of the war. All the warriors from either side except for 12 people were dead. It is at this point that Yudishtar laments about the cost of winning the war. Let me make one thing clear, even in the Mahabharata violence was used as the last resort and not the first choice of engagement.
That is how much we as a culture hated wars. And the Mahabharata taught me the consequences of the path of Adharma. I would definitely love to discuss in length about these two great epics but both these epics taught me the morality and ethics by which I have to live my life.
So if Sitaram Yechury is inspired by the violence in it, it is his understanding of the epic. But to potray his understanding and interpretation as the understanding of the majority of Hindus is blatantly false and reeks of malice. Jihadis understand what they want to understand and interpret from the Quran and become terrorists. So do some evangelical outfits which see violence in the Bible. It is their narrow minded understanding of a vast reservoir of knowledge. That is their problem and hence we brand them as such.
Now what seems to be the problem of Mr. Sitaram Yechury and how should we brand him for understanding two great epics to be a promoter of violence, I leave you with that choice.