Monday, September 25, 2006

How The Gods Kill

Kamat's Potpourri has an interesting post titled "Rama's Mistake" about Rama killing the King of the Monkeys, Vali. (The full story. Kamat's site has a more "reader-friendly" version of the legend.)

Moral of the story: If you monkey around with your brother's wife, be prepared for some fatal ass-kicking.

Ever wonder if Rama attracted these violent situations into his life by virtue of being so moral and upright?

During my Ramlila-watching days, the Vali episode would always leave me just a little cold. Why couldn't a God distinguish between Sugreeva and Vali? Why did he shoot that arrow at Vali's back?

But this, and a couple of Rama's other equally disturbing choices, make the epic more "real". And maybe Ramayan is not about a "fully actualized God" but about a man on his way to "Godhood".

6 comments:

GhostOfTomJoad said...

I'm far from being an expert on this but, contrary to how it has been portrayed in Ram Lilas and television serials and films, I think that, unlike Krishna, Rama was never aware of his own status as an incarnation.

km said...

I agree. Also, Rama goes about the whole "affair" with solemnity, which is very human. Krishna, on the other hand...

anangbhai said...

More like, Boy scout couldn't distinguish between his homeboy and his sworn enemy cause he could care less.
Maybe he just shot the arrow indscriminatley and it hit vali by chance.
At least, that's what I think of Superman...er.uh..Ram.

km said...

LOL...Boy Scout :)) that's a new one.

upunge said...

i've read somewhere that there is substantial difference between valmiki's ramayana and tulsidas'. the latter is by far the most popular, being in hindi. from what i read in the english translation it is pretty pure in feeling, which you also feel in the way it is chanted. they say that valmiki's text is pretty gruesome by comparison. there is something about ravana hacking some sages to pieces and putting their limbs in a box, which he buries. the limbs then rejoin to form sita, whom dasaratha then discovers while ploughing the field, so that she is sort of an incarnation of revenge. to come to the point, i also heard that in valmiki's text, rama is not aware that he is an incarnation of vishnu - the gods appear at the end of the story to reveal it to him and he is at first sceptical. it sounds very much like a retrospective divinisation. in the chinese classis "the three kingdoms", if i do remember well, there is a marvellous line which reads like: "everyone then agreed that, judging from his exploits, guan gong could not have been human, and they decided to worship him" ok maybe it's my memory which wants to see that line but i just have this impression that the writer clearly states that a decision was taken to worship the hero. i find it fascinating that like the indians, the chinese also worshipped their heros, but this worship did not evolve to become bhakti worship. was it because they were aware, somewhere, that they were dealing with historical heroes ? the chinese always had a strong historical awareness whereas in india history and mythology tend to merge. even here in mauritius i have my neighbour telling me that the mahabharata battle was really a great historical event on a huge scale...and that krishna was really , like... krishna.

upunge said...

oops sorry, it's not dasaratha who discovers sita, but her father... i forgot the name - is it janak ?