No matter how enriching historical and cultural analyses of the Ramayana may be for those who are inclined to such modes, a significant aspect of Hindu culture is that the major personages in the epic: Rama and Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman, have acquired an exalted and sanctified status in the heart and soul of millions. So we bow to their icons reverentially in places of worship and sing devotional bhajans to them. When we listen to Saint Thyagaraja’s moving music dedicated to Rama or to (hari-katha) narrations of the epic, or when we recite with fellow-Hindus Sant Tulasi Das’s Ramcharitramanas, we are touched in ways that no literal translation or scholarly exposition of the Ramayana can accomplish. In such contexts one is immersed in the bhakti mode where divine representations are the targets not just of respect and prostrations, but of a love that is expressed and experienced in the spiritual realm. This love can be ecstatic. To the bhakta (devotee of any religion):
God is there in the lepton’s heart
In galactic stretches too.
More ancient than the Cosmic start,
Yet, ever fresh and new.
Some prove a God, some disprove,
With logic as their start.
But no one can or ever will
Move God from the faithful’s heart.
Let mockers mock, and scholars say
Whatever they decide.
The God to whom the devout pray,
Isn’t proved, but felt inside.
And so we celebrate Sri Ramanavami as the birthday of Ramachandra as per Valmiki’s text. In this context, Rama not only stands for the perennial values of truth and justice, of respect for parents, and adherence to the given word, but is also, and more importantly, Divinity Incarnate. This year, the celebration happens to be today: March 24, 2010.
On this auspicious day in the Hindu calendar, I would like to convey my greetings to all who are affiliated to the spiritual plane of the tradition. Let us reflect on the vision of the ideal state of Ramrâjya as conceived by the sage-poets of India.
It has been said in the distant past
When the great Rama ruled,
No disease there was, nor early death,
Nor persons there unschooled.
No man did die in his productive phase,
Leaving behind a wife.
Nor mothers wailed the loss of babes
That died in early life.
No thieves there were, nor cheats, nor crooks;
All did whate’er they should.
All loved and cared for those who lived
In their neighborhood.
Plants and trees did richly grow,
Yielding fruits and grains,
The earth itself enriched the land
With steady and regular rains.
No lightning, thunder or blazing fire
Did bring to hearts alarm;
No gale or hale or quakes that would
Cause to people harm.
With valleys green and flowing streams
All Nature smiled so well,
Men toiled hard and produced goods,
Traders things did sell.
There was law and order, justice fair
In that ancient realm:
That was the kingdom which had the great
Rama at its helm.
We wish and pray for that ideal world
Of which our sage-poets spake.
We need the goodwill of one and all
Such a world again to make.
In the midst of all the hurt and hate
Will it ever come to be?
Not today, but perhaps some day,
The world may Ramrajya see.
March 24, 2010