Religion and Soul

Rama

Vishnu is also considered as the greatest of the greats by his followers but for legal reasons he only sends his earthly incarnations, his avatars, into battle.

Most illustrious of these is Rama. Rama’s story is told in the epic poem the Ramayana and essentially it’s a tale of filial duty and war against the darkies from Sri Lanka. Rama’s wife, Sita, is kidnapped by the evil demon, Ravana. He carries her off across the sea to Sri Lanka and Rama has to campaign long and hard to win her back.

No sooner is she back though than he doubts that she hasn’t been raped by her captors. She protests her innocence but Rama will have none of it. Finally she declares that may the god of fire itself attest to her virtue. She casts herself on the flames.

The gods see this and decide it’s time to tell Rama who he really is.

“O Lord, thou goest beyond the past, the present, and the future; thine is the bow of Time; thou art creation and destruction; thou art the slayer of all enemies, thou the forgiveness and control of passions; thou art the refuge of all gods and hermits; thou art manifest in every creature, in cows and Brahmans, in every quarter, in sky and river and mountain-peak; a thousand limbs, a thousand eyes, a thousand heads are thine; the closing of thy eye is night, its opening day: Sita is Lakshmi and thou Vishnu and Krishna.”

Completely unfazed by this Rama merely blinks as the fire returns Sita untouched.

So they live together happily, ruling the land for a while until again evil rumours reach Rama’s ears that no one else believes Sita’s story. Inspired to set a good example to his subjects with unfaithful wives, Rama banishes Sita. He’s that kind of guy, apparently – an example that hasn’t done much for women’s rights in India.

She is so oversome with remorse that she literally wishes that the ground should swallow her up. A throne appears from beneath her and she’s carried away forever beneath the Earth. Rama then gets remorseful but he’s reminded that he is after all a god and should pull himself together.

These days, sadly, Rama’s story is used to bolster the Indian nationalist part, the BJP, and massacres of Muslims are conducted in his name.

For a comic interpretation of the Ramayana, check out Nina Paley’s excellent animation movie on the theme.