Connecting Vaastu to the 21st Century

Vedic India – Ram And The Epic Ramayan

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Note: This article is a researched article and borrows heavily from printed and electronic encyclopedias as well as material provided by our panel of research scholars, astrologers, academics and pundits.

RamjiThe majority of Indians know Rama as Ram, Ravana as Ravan, Laxmana as Laxman and Ramayana as Ramayan and not as the English rendering ending with an ‘a’ as in Rama, Ramayana etc. The final ‘a’ is added in the English translation for scholarly Sanskrit reasons. This article uses the Indian rendering of Ram, Ramayan etc. The Sanskrit verse of the Ramayan is said to be exquisite, something hard to judge as the available translations in English are disappointingly dull.

We celebrate this year’s Diwali with a special article on Ramayan.Ramji

The Ramayan of Valmiki is perhaps the most ancient and glorious epic in the world. It is known as the Adikavyam—the first poem. Ramayan exercises a great moulding power on the life of man. It contains object lessons for husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters, friends and enemies.

The Ramayan is India’s best loved book. It is one of the world’s great epic tales and an inspiration to school children, monks and movie makers. The epic is as much a key to understanding India today as it was three thousand years ago. Some historians have recast the fight between Ram and Ravan as a colonial war waged by Aryan invaders against indigenous Indians.
Valmiki Ramayan – considered universally to be the original Ramayan – contains 24,000 verses which have been grouped into 500 chapters and again into seven Kandas or sections namely, Bala, Ayodhya, Aranya, Kishkindha, Sundara, Yuddha and the Uttara Kandas. It contains genuine classical Sanskrit poetry. Ram’s young sons, Kusa and Lava were the first ones to recite the Ramayan to the world, singing this reputed work to music. They came in the garb of ascetics from the hermitage of their teacher, Valmiki and sang the wonderful poem in the presence of their father Ram and other heroes of the story.

Bharat takes away Ram sandalsRam’s strength of character marks him out. He grasped the concept of dharma instinctively. He was calm and thoughtful. He tried to see every side of the problem. He was self-assured and was able to express dissent with remarkable grace and intellectual force. Physically well built, he was an excellent horseman and perhaps the best archer in Ayodhya. He was popular in the court and adored by the populace. He was the king of the poor as well as the rich.
There is an interesting story about why and how the sage Valmiki wrote the Ramayan. Given below is an excerpt from the superb narration of this event by Swami Sivananda, the Hindu spiritual teacher and well known proponent of Yoga and Vedanta. Swamiji studied medicine and served in Malaya as a physician for several years before taking up monasticism. He lived most of the later part of his life in Rishikesh near Haridwar. The excerpt:-
Valmiki once asked Narada, “O Venerable Rishi! Please tell me whether there is a perfect man in this world who is at once virtuous, brave, dutiful, truthful, noble, steadfast in duty and kind to all beings.”

Vedic India QuoteNarada replied, “There is such a one, a prince of Ikshvaku’s line named Ram. He is virtuous, brave, gentle and wise. He is a great hero. He loves his subjects immensely. He is a protector of Dharma. He is firm and steadfast. He is just and liberal. He is well-versed in the Vedas and in the science of arms. He is unique in the possession of virtues and matchless in beauty. He is an obedient son, a kind brother, a loving husband, a faithful friend, an ideal king, a merciful enemy and a lover of all living beings. All people adore him”.
Valmiki, reflecting over this flowing description was walking along the banks of the river Tamasa. He happened to see a pair of Kraunchas (birds) sporting with each other in love. Suddenly the male bird was shot dead by a cruel fowler and the female, seeing her mate rolling on the ground in agony, screamed out most pitifully her lamentations. The sage felt great pity at the sight of the fallen bird and his grieving spouse and burst forth in the exclamation: “Never, O fowler, shalt thou obtain rest, as thou hast killed a Krauncha in the midst of his love.” These words came out spontaneously in the form of a musical verse having four feet of eight syllables each (Anushtup metre).

Then Brahma himself, the Creator of the world, appeared before the poet and said, “Sing Ram’s charming story in the same melodious meter. As long as this world endures, as long as the stars shine in heaven, so long shall thy song spread among men”. So saying Brahma vanished. He blessed the poet with the knowledge of Sri Ram’s story whereupon Valmiki sat down in meditation and saw every event in Sri Ram’s story in detail in his Yogic vision. Then he began to write the Ramayan. The melody of Ramayan was born from a heart of love and pity for the wounded bird. When applied to Ramayan, the verse that Valmiki sang out of pity for the Krauncha can be interpreted thus: Sri Ram and Sita represent the two Kraunchas; Ravan represents the cruel hunter; Sita was cruelly separated from Ram by the cruel hunter Ravana. There is a slight similarity in these cases. The hunter’s cruel act was a forerunner to Valmiki’s inspiration to narrate the Ramayan.

The Diwali connection with Ramayan is narrated below. This too is by Swami Sivananda:-

Map indicating the route taken by Ram from  Ayodhya  to LankaRam Returns to Ayodhya

After ten days of fierce war with Ravan, the victorious Ram, Laxman and Sita prepared to return to Ayodhya. In Ayodhya, Bharat, Ram’s beloved brother eagerly waited for their arrival. He had counted every day of those fourteen years that Ram had to suffer in the forest as a result of his mother’s folly. He had ruled as the representative Ram, living like a Sanyasi. Ram’s wooden shoes adored the throne during his absence.

Bharat encouraged the people of Ayodhya to celebrate the return of Ram with pomp and show. Actually, there was no need to pass any such order as the whole of Ayodhya was eager to welcome her heroes. The entire city was decorated with flowers and garlands. Every house bore a beautiful look of cleanliness and was lighted with candles and lamps. Perfumes and scent filled the air. Every street was cleaned and watered, and decorated with hand-painted colorful designs. There was a mad rush to see Ram first.

When Ram arrived, Bharat and Ram hugged each other, tears flowing down their eyes. Ram inquired about the well-being of Kaikeyi first, then about his mother Kaushalya, and Sumitra. Soon, Ram was given his due honour as King of Ayodhya. Ram’s coronation was celebrated by a burst of fireworks and a great feast. Fine clothes and sweets were distributed to everyone. And to this day, Hindus celebrate the defeat of Ravan and the return of Ram from exile by lighting lamps on this darkest night of the year!

ValmikiAbout Valmiki

Maharishi Valmiki was born as Ratnakara to sage Prachetasa . At a very young age he got lost in a forest and was looked after by a family of hunters. Ratnakara forgot his original parents and turned out to be an excellent hunter. After marriage, to look after his growing family, he became a highway robber looting people after killing them..

One day, the great sage Narada, while passing through the jungle, was attacked by Ratnakara. As Narada played his Veena and sang praises of the Lord, he saw a transformation coming over Ratnakara. Then, he asked Ratnakara whether the family, for whom he was robbing others, will partake in his sins also. Ratnakara went to ask the same question to his family and on being refused by all his family members, he went back to sage Narada.

Narada taught him the sacred name of ‘Rama’ and asked him to sit in meditation, chanting the name of Ram, till the time Narada came back. Valmiki got the name wrong and chanted mara mara till finally it merged into “RamaRamaRamaRama.” Ratnakara sat in his meditative posture for years, during which his body got completely covered by an anthill. At last, Narada came to see him and removed all the anthills from his body. Thereafter, Ratnakara was bestowed with the honor of a Brahmarshi and given the name of Valmiki, since he was reborn from the Valmika (the ant-hill). Sage Valmiki founded his ashram at the banks of River Ganga.

Whose Ram is He Anyway?

The Ramayan in  Bali,  is  incessantly  performed as  a traditional danceThe story of Ram is a current that flows across frontiers and cultural barriers, adapting itself to every human plight. Versions of the Ramayan are found in Sri Lanka, Tibet, China, Japan, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos and Java. The tale has even crossed the religious barrier – into Buddhism – not only in Thailand but in Burma and elsewhere. It has inspired sculpture, painting, cinema, television serials, popular fiction and in 2007, a computer game. It can be found in poetry, prose, drama, and puppet plays, in Bali, it is incessantly performed as a traditional dance.

Valmiki’s Ramayan is considered to be the original version and the one usually translated into English and other foreign languages. However, most Indians in the Hindi speaking belt know and venerate the Ramcharitramanas which is purportedly a translation of the original by Tulsidas. However, Tulsidas’s translation is not a faithful one and reportedly over 60% of it is his own creation. South India has its own version of the Ramayan – the Ramavataram – written over 900 years ago by the great poet Kambhar. To Tamil speaking Hindus, it has the force and centrality that Tulsidas’s version has for the Hindi speaking north-Indians. However, Kambhar’s characterization is different. His Ram is the ultimate human figure unlike his Ravan who is crucially different. In Valmiki’s Ramayan, Ravan is a monster but Kumbhar’s Ravan is a man full of contradictions – a very great man in fact and this makes his failure all the more profound and tragic. Kambhar reinvents Ravan as a tragic hero. Ravan is much loved by Tamils and there is a great tradition to sing his praises – and claim descent from him. In Sri Lanka, the Sinhala traditions claim Ravan to be the great Lankan king.

Lord Ram Laxman and Sita leaving Ayodhya Kevat is the boatsmanIs Ramayan Historical?

This problem of course does not disturb the Hindus. For them, Ram is a divine figure who lived “once upon a time” and the account of his deeds is a source of inspiration as well as a mine of historical facts. After considerable deliberations, most modern historians assume that the poem Ramayan was composed before 500 B.C by a single poet, Valmiki who was a contemporary of Ram and also has a marginal role in the great epic of his.

Caption for picture of TV serial Ramayan: The Ramayan is about the traditional Indian virtues that the Indian TV universe with its celebration of greed and spite is so eagerly subverting. This is ironical because it is this very TV universe that popularized Ramayan in the early 1980s.

Astrology & Vaastu in the Ramayan

Ram and SeetaAs far as Vaastu is concerned, it is not mentioned in Ramayan, the reason being that the Ramayan occurs in the Treta Yuga whilst the first mention of Vaastu occurs in Mahabharata in the Dwapar yuga when Indraprastha was to be made and Vishvakarma – the divine architect – is invited to create it by Lord Krishna.

However, astrology was known at the time of Ramayan also. Ram was having the Maha Dasha of Saadesaati of Shani (Saturn). Shani Maha Dasha is typically a period of great difficulty. When it occurs for a person the malefic effects of the planet are highly pronounced. It is said that Shani can reduce even a king to a pauper during such period.

In the Ayodhya Kanda of the Ramayan, after Ram and Sita have been married for twelve years, Dasharatha who had grown old expresses his desire to crown Ram but Kaikeyi — her jealousy aroused by Manthara, a wicked maidservant — claims two boons that Dasharatha had long ago promised her. Kaikeyi demands that Ram be exiled into wilderness for fourteen years while the succession passes to her son, Bharata. Ram accepts his father’s reluctant decree with total submission and calm self-control which characterizes him throughout the story. Thus, Shani plays his hand, depriving Ram of his kingdom and in its place, sends him away to fourteen years of exile.

The matter does not end here. Ram’s brother, Bharat who was on a visit to his maternal uncle, learns about the events in Ayodhya. The devoted younger brother that he is, Bharat refuses to profit from his mother’s wicked scheming and visits Ram in the forest. He requests Ram to return and rule. But Ram, determined to carry out his father’s orders to the letter, refuses to return before the period of exile. Here, Shani plays his hand again. The inconsolable Bharat vows not to sit on the throne. He carries Ram’s sandals and keeps them on the throne while he rules as Ram’s regent. Thus, using Bharat’s love and devotion for his eldest brother Ram, Shani deprives Ram of the comfort of sandals and Ram has to live his exile in the forest without even the basic comfort of his sandals.