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Analysis of the Ramayana
|by Gaurang Bhatt, MD|
The West as usual has a culturally biased view and tends to label non-western scriptures as mythical while its zealots swear fealty to the literal truth of the Bible. In fairness, it subjects its own ancient books to independent verification by acceptable standards, but devotes more time, intellectual effort and talent to the biased purpose. The archeological efforts by Schliemann at Troy and Rawlinson at Beheshtun lend credence to parts of the Iliad and the biblical story of the Assyrian destruction of Israel respectively. There are other ways than archeology, for example human nature, the parallels of selective memory and its fading with time and social relevance and geography and common horizons that can be used to analyze ancient stories.
Shravana, a dutiful son opts to carry his blind and infirm parents in the two pans of a balance over his shoulders while walking. The four divine places of pilgrimage form a diamond with the four sides constituting over 4000 miles. At a rate of fifteen miles a day, without paved roads and passing through jungles with rest times, the journey would take years. The story is hyperbole to promulgate reverence to aging parents at the cost of Bhagirathian sacrifice.
The next hyperbole is the sacrifice of Kaikeyi, who inserts her fingers as a fulcrum to prevent the wheel of Dasratha's chariot falling off during battle and ensures his victory in combat. The dutiful wife with infinite capacity for sacrifice for her husband is rewarded by the grant of one wish which she exploits by demanding the throne for her son Bharata and exile for Rama, thus emphasizing that a mother's love should exceed all bounds of propriety.
After the defeat of Ravana, Sita who has spent time in captivity of an alien man is forced to prove her chastity by a literal passage through fire, once again the hyperbole of a devoted and obedient wife. The victorious Rama having completed his long exile sets out on his return to Ayodhya. He knows that much time has elapsed and time is the corruptor and destroyer of all, including the good. He worries that Bharata may have been transformed from regent of his shoes to the real king. He does not wish to deprive his brother of anything and reminiscent of Tennyson's poem "The Lotus Eaters" return as stranger to the old home to upset the prevailing order. He thus sends Hanuman in his newly acquired airplane to see if Bharata would still welcome him. Hanuman finds the shoes on the throne and Bharata living in utter simplicity without arrogance or intoxication of power, as a humble regent.
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