Justice Markandey Katju-
I have called Mughal Emperor Akbar ( 1542-1605 ) the Father of the Indian Nation ( see my article ‘Emperor Akbar—the real Father of the Indian Nation’ in my blog Satyam Bruyat ).
I have also called Emperor Ashoka (who ruled from 268 to 232 B.C.) the grandfather of the India Nation ( see my Facebook post ‘Emperor Ashoka—the grandfather of the Indian Nation).
Now let me mention about Rama, whom I regard as the great grandfather of the Indian Nation.
Today, in the polarized and emotionally surcharged and communalized atmosphere which has been created by the ‘Hindutva’ forces which have taken control over India, Rama may be depicted and regarded by the Indian minorities ( particularly Muslims ) as a fearsome oppressive entity, who symbolizes lynching, terrorizing and atrocities on them. But was Rama really like that?
We need not go into the controversy whether Rama was a mythological or historical figure, though it may be mentioned that behind every mythology there is usually some history. Homer’s Iliad is regarded Greek mythology, but some evidence of a Trojan war has been found by archaeologists. Similarly, my own opinion is that Rama was a great king who did good deeds, and was later transformed into a god.
Indeed in the original Ramayana of Valmiki ( in Sanskrit ) Rama is not a god but a human being. He was a prince, who later became a king ( of Ayodhya ). It was about 2000 years later in the 16th century that he was transformed into a god by Tulsidas in his Ramcharitmanas.
In Valmiki’s Ramayana (which is the original Ramayana ) there is a scene where King Dasharatha of Ayodhya having become old wants to anoint his eldest son Rama as his successor. But before doing so he invites the people of Ayodhya and asks them their opinion whether Rama is deserving to be their next king.
The people of Ayodhya reply:
“Nikhilenanu poorvya cha pita putraan iva aurasaan
Shrushushante cha woh shishya kachit varmasu danshitaah
Iti woh purush vyaagrah sada Ramobhibhaashate
Vyasaneshu manushyaanam bhrisham bhavati dukhitah
Utsaveshu cha sarveshu pitev paritushyati “
[i.e. “O King, your son Rama indeed deserves to be the king. He behaves like a father to the people. He grieves when the people are in sorrow ( due to some calamity or tragedy ), and is pleased like a father when the people celebrate festivals.”]
So, in the original Ramayana Rama is described as a father to the people, who cares for all of them.
A true father takes care of all his children, and not that he takes care of only some but oppresses the others. So, if Rama had been the king of India today, he would have looked after the welfare of all people of India, and not that he would have only looked after Hindus but oppressed Muslims, Christians, Dalits etc. He would have given severe punishment to those who lynched Muslims or committed atrocities on them, vandalized Christian churches, or oppressed Dalits.
I submit that the ‘Hindutva‘ forces have tarnished Rama’s name, and it is time that the truth about him be told to the Indian people.
[Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own.]