We celebrate so many festivals throughout the year. some don’t make sense to me, and some… well make me ponder. But this festival makes me feel sad. It’s Dussehra.
I have written extensively on Raavan and why I feel we could not understand him or probably we chose not to understand him. You can read my views on Raavan, Ram and Sita in my posts (in my blog) “Defending Raavana” and “Raavana Is In My Soul”. Here is a glimpse:
“OK, alright, yes he abducted another man’s wife but did not force himself. He fought a fair war for what he thought was right in his eyes. After all, women were used for political reasons like commodities (defeated kings offering their daughters for marriage to the winner etc). Also, I fail to understand why Laxman is in no one’s bad books for slashing the nose of a (demon) young girl, who showed interest in him?!! When women could be won, or lost, or earned, or whatever then why, in that era, such hue and cry for stealing a woman? From that point of view, what should be the punishment for raping one’s own daughter? Should THEIR effigies not burnt then? Raavan, still, had the courage to fight, actually fight a war for that woman (how flattering is that now !!!)”
This year too, effigies of Raavana, along with his brother Kumbhkaran and son Meghnad, were burned, with loads of crackers, fun, dandiya, music, and chaat papdi stalls. I too attended the local celebration.
But I was pained, as always. Seeing him stand there, at the mercy of people, common men and women, who themselves don’t understand the meaning of the festival. For them, he is the demon, but nobody will think how was Ram as a husband and as a father. Was a woman called Sita wronged somewhere? Who’s bothered. I hear some new TV serial is coming called “Ganga ki Dheej”, (what does that mean?) which also talks how can a woman give proof of her purity. Uff! I have no words. All this just defies logic for me.
But, this year witnessing the effigy of Raavana go up in flames brought out some more painful thoughts in my mind. Just a month back, I heard, there was a video clip of a young boy who got electrocuted while climbing over the top of a stationary train in Australia, and some one commented about this horrific scene as “this could be a way to get rid of Indian students from Australia” (not the exact words, but something like this) . He surely had to face the wrath of the world. It was such a shameful thing to say.
Through this festival, are we not promoting the feelings of violence? Are we not saying it is OK to see some person, or his symbolic presence, to be burned and mutilated? Raavana is looked down upon, humiliated every year. We celebrate the victory of goodness over evil. But, have we ever questioned our choices? What was evil in that era, is the norm of this era. If we really see, we, the common man would be at par (or rather worst than him in many cases) with the villian of that era. Is it not time, we change the symbols of evil? Is it not time we understand that raping a woman is worst than abducting and then waiting for that woman to accept your love? Okay, yes, agreed Raavana had ego, which ruined his kingdom. Do we not have ego? Where does the modern man stand in front of Raavana?
But still, Raavana will be burned, his effigy filled with expensive big crackers will go up in flames each year. We will be left with the wooden carcass of the evil demon lying helplessly on the ground surrounded by the paper, ash and half burnt pieces of shells, every year.
It’s time we question our choices. It’s time we understand the true meaning of the festival. It’s time we win over the devil in our selves – our ego, our selfishness, our pettiness, our greed, and our lust before we dare to touch the Raavana.