He is Eka-vachani, a king who always keeps his word; Eka-bani, an archer who strikes his target with the first arrow; and Eka-patni, a husband who is eternally and absolutely devoted to a single wife.
He is maryada purushottam Ram, the supreme upholder of social values, the scion of the Raghu clan, jewel of the solar dynasty, the seventh avatar of Vishnu, God who establishes order in worldly life. Hindus believe that in stressful and tumultuous times chanting Ram’s name and hearing his tale, the Ramayan, brings stability, hope, peace and prosperity. Reviled by feminists, appropriated by politicians, Ram remains serene in his majesty, the only Hindu deity to be worshipped as a king.
In this book, Devdutt Pattanaik explores the relevance of Ram in modern times by examining him in his various roles: as Dashrath’s son, Lakshman’s brother, Vishwamitra’s student, Sita’s husband, Ravan’s enemy, Hanuman’s master, Ayodhya’s king, Vishnu’s incarnation, Valmiki’s inspiration, the Ramayan’s protagonist and Hindutva’s icon.
Devdutt Pattanaik is a medical doctor by education, a marketing consultant by profession, and a mythologist by passion. He has written and lectured extensively on the nature of sacred stories, symbols and rituals and their relevance in modern times.
His books include Myth=Mithya: A Handbook of Hindu Mythology (Penguin India) and The Pregnant King (Penguin India). The Book of Kali (Penguin Viking) is based on his talks.
Devdutt’s unconventional approach and engaging style are evident in his lectures, books and articles. To know more visit www.devdutt.com.
Any discussion of Ram today is dominated either by academic analysis or political debate. The former thrives on portraying Ram as a patriarchal poet’s fantasy. The latter either asserts Ram or rejects Ram, transforming him into a potent political lever either way. In the din of these discourses of power, the discourse of love is lost. One forgets that for hundreds of years, for millions of people, across history and geography, Ram’s name and Ram’s story has been a window to the divine.
Ram’s name, the Ram-nam, is repeatedly chanted to tide over a crisis, for the name, Ram, when reversed becomes Mara, which means ‘die’. Ram is the opposite of Mara. Ram is life-with all its demands and desires and destinies. Ram’s calm repose in the face of all adversity, so evident in the Ramayan, has made him worthy of veneration, adoration and worship.
Ram’s story has reached the masses not through erudite Sanskrit texts but through theatre, song and dance performed in local languages. All of these retellings of the Ramayan have their own twists and turns, their own symbolic outpouring, each one valid in their respective contexts.
I write this book celebrating the Ram of the common man, the power of his name, the many retellings of his tale, drawing attention to the several layers of metaphors and meanings in the rituals and narratives, bringing forth my own creative insight, well aware that:
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