What was the turning point in Ramayana which led to Battle of Lanka !

There are many versions in the Epic Story of Ram, like the Valmiki version, the Tulsidas version and various others. I have a general understanding of various events in Ramayana, which are normally known to the people of India as TV series, books, novels or the Ramayana itself. I was contemplating on various aspects of Ramayana and if you follow my blog, you would know recently I have been doing some study on this Epics and hence frequent posts on them.

Today I want to take you on a ride to a complete new chain of thoughts which can blow your mind on what your understanding about the Ramayana and the characters in the story. As the story goes, the turning point happens in Ramayana happens when Kaikayee influenced by the words of Manthara, asks King Dasharth to drive away Prince Rama out of the kingdom into exile, so her son Bharath becomes the king in future. So that happens, but this event has not yet become the cause of demise of Raavan or Lanka.

Sita, wife of Rama, decides to follow her husband into the exile or jungle. Well good, she was his wife and they vow to be together in good and bad. Fantastic, both go along. Hold on, there is a twist ! Lakshman, brother of Ram, decides to follow his brother and leaves behind his wife, breaking the vow of being together in good or bad. So the Trio, Ram-Sita-Lakshman go to the jungle. Nice. Enjoy the Trip.

The Biggest Turning Point of the Story – Surpanakha. You don’t know her ? She is sister of Raavan, who becomes the antagonist of the Ramayana, because of the event that I am going to describe shortly. Surpanakha, was a widow, who used to roam in the Jungles of South India. One fine day, during her visit to Panchvati, she falls for beauty of Ram. Ram however denies her saying he is faithful to Sita and can’t be interested in her. Well, Surpanakha turns to equally good looking Lakshman, who denies her too. What follows is some discussion, fight and Lakshman cutting her nose. She goes to her brother, Raavan and asks him to take revenge with the Brothers. You know what happens next, Raavan kidnaps Sita, Ram follows to Lanka along with Hanuman, who fires the entire Lanka, a epic War and demise of Lanka. Adios Raavan, thanks to your sister. Well, not her fault actually.

Now, what is interesting in my point of view is, if only Ram and Sita, went to exile. Lakshman stayed back with his wife and took care of Ayodhya. Then Surpanakha, would have agreed to that Ram is faithful to Sita and might have left. Then there would be no nose cutting and no Epic War. Raavan would be away from all this and so would Lanka be. Also, Lakshman was a angry youthful person, hence he treated with violence, may be. Ram on the other hand, if Surpanakha insisted, to be with him, would have found a different way to solve the issue. You are getting where I am going with this  ?

Everything happened in a way, because of Kaikayee and Surpanakha. But I believe there would have been a lot of different series of event, if Lakshman didn’t pitch in on the day, Ram left Ayodhya. There was no need. Ram was powerful enough to take care of himself and Sita. Why did he go ? WHY ! Poor Lanka, burnt in fire.

So if you ask me ! What was the turning point in Ramayana which led to the Battle of Lanka, then it would be the day or event when Lakshman opted to go with Ram !

The Underdogs of Epics

The two epics of India and Hinduism especially, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, have been point of my study recently. They are considered to be holy books by many and lot of stories have been a part of the religious beliefs. There are a lot of important learning from both the Epics and the understanding increases when both of them are read in parallel. However today I am not going to talk about the Heroes or any stories in the Epics. I am going to take a upside down view, pick few of the underdogs and discuss about them.

The Epics are very long and each one has a part in the story, a previous life and an after life. Lot of stories are inter-tangled and lot of connections between the events. But there are a few who get mentioned here and there. That is all that we get to know about them. There isn’t detailed explanation about their life, events or characteristics. May be I didn’t dwell deeper into either of them yet, however naturally my understanding is that every other kid in India knows on a higher level about the Epics and they can explain almost clearly the events that happen and the Heroes involved.

So given that I have never heard much of the following characters in the Epics and hence I call them UnderDogs. I don’t mean to de-signify their importance or intend to say that they didn’t do anything, probably you can add to my knowledge by commenting on your information about them. I just feel like talking about them and see what is the reason behind it. Here are those in no special order –

Bharat – The brother of Ram, the Hero of Epic Ramayana, named after him. Bharat is the key to the entire episode, where his mother feels insecure about the position of her son in the kingdom, after being influenced by Manthara. So she asks King Dashrath to send Ram to exile and make Bharat the king. Bharat rules the kingdom in the absence of his brother, however he is devoted to Ram as much as Laxman. He uses footwear of Ram on his throne, as symbol of Ram’s presence. Bharat comes to give Ram the control of kingdom. But I don’t know of any other mention of Bharat in the entire epic, about the wars he fought or any other events that is spoken of him. During 13 years of Ram’s exile and what does he do. I understand it is Ramayana the story of Ram, but hey what does Bharat do ?

Shatrughna – A lot of people even fail to recover his name properly and mix him to be a Pandav or from Mahabharat. Sad 😦 Anyway so I know he is the less spoken brother of Ram. I don’t remember what his skill set is and what is his character. Does he do anything in the entire course of Ram’s exile or after the return. What is he doing in the entire life ? Please feel free to share your views and knowledge.

Nakul & Sahadev – Well since they are often spoken of together, I will keep them together as well. They are 2 of the 5 Pandavas, sons of King Pandav and his wife Madri. There might be mention about their skills once in a while. But what they do during childhood, during the adolescent, during the schooling, during the game of dice, during the exile, epic Mahabharata war, after the war anything ? Am I being very abrupt here ! I don’t know. I believe as much as the information flows about Arjun, Bhima and even Yudhistira, I don’t see enough events or information associated with Nakul & Sahadev. Again feel free to share your views and inputs in comment.

Were they of less significant in the entire story or was it really so uneventful I am not sure. I believe the scholars who composed the Epic, didn’t want to make it big, but hey it is already so big. What does it mean of having them less spoken of ? Were they not at par with the other brothers ? As always I will be revisiting these episodes and the people mentioned above over and over again in various phase of my life and try to see what sense does it make to me. What do you feel !

The Legend of Arjun

Arjun, the king of Hastinapur and Indraprasth, was a very skillful warrior. He was the son of Pandu and Kunti, born from the divine mantra given to Kunti by a Sage. Kunti calls upon Indra, the God of gods and the result of them is Arjun. Arjun is trained along with his brothers, by Drona, the most skillful teacher. Arjun excels in all weapons of the war, but he was highly skillful in Archery. He was man of talent. As the story goes he could pierce the eye of fish, rotating on a wheel, by looking in the oil placed in a big bowl. This was a test for winning the hand of Draupadi, the daughter of Drupad. He goes on to become one of the greatest king and warrior in the battled field of Kurukshetra and kills all his rivals in the war, who were his own brothers, teachers, relatives and his own clan. He gets aid from Krishna, the king of Dwarka, the avatar of Lord Vishnu. Krishna preaches him the essence of Life and explains him the duty of life. He tells him the Bhagwad Gita. Arjun then is successful in defeating the opponents and claiming the right on Hastinapur along with his brothers, the Pandavas.

What is more to this ? Well, was Arjun was even great as he is showcased as ? Was he even the greatest archer of his time ? Did he just got lucky to be born with golden spoon and surrounded by people with wisdom, intent and purpose in every walk of life ? What would have happened of Arjun, without Dron or Krishna ? Is Arjun, something on his own, if so is he so legendary as the story goes, on his own ?

Well, I have two good contenders against him, in the field of archery to be specific. First of them is Eklavya. Eklavya is a tribal boy who learns the art of archery by himself. He places the idol of Guru Drona and using his concentration, determination and will power, achieves to learn everything about archery and excel at it. If we speculate in the very systematic way, it might happen in some cases, he might have listened to all the teachings from the top of a tree or secretly hiding in bushes. Whatever the way he acquired the skills, he didn’t have any formal teaching nor any particular background. When the Pandavas, come to know of such a skillful archer and when Arjun questions Eklavya, sadly, how he acquired the skills, he comes to know of Drona being his teacher. When taken to Drona, he disagrees and comes to know of how Eklavya, learnt by self. Drona, was a wise man, a man of virtue, but he wanted to see his student, Arjun to be the best at archery.

What Drona did next is something I would like to speculate over and over again and every time I would land into different possibility of why Drona did so ? He asks Eklavya to cut his thumb and provide him as a Gurudakshina. Eklavya, does so without a thought and provides Drona with his thumb. Hence, without thumb, Eklavya could never use a bow and his chapter in the history of Archery and Mahabharata is over. In the books of Moral, it is showcased this story as Eklavya, was without a Guru and it is said that knowledge without Guru, is blind. But I would like to think it is otherwise. It is not about the knowledge or skill being blind. It was the determination and the ability of Eklavya that strikes me more and that provokes me to think of it. Was the world condemned to make Arjun the great ? Is it the story tellers, who mixed the stories and modified it ? Were Drona and Krishna, men with higher ability, aware of consequences of everything and they decide to take some steps, that are not of understanding to a common man ?

I would always been revisiting this chapter of history or mythology, whatever you call it, to know what is it in the realm of this story, that one should take and make out of ? I want to know what is your view on the story and legend who never became one – Eklavya.

The second contender in the next post.