Looking for Rama, everywhere
For author and former Rajya Sabha MP Pavan Varma, the Hindu philosophy, its spiritual tenants and the link between spirituality and highest forms of refinement which can be witnessed in civilizations associated with Hinduism, especially in the ancient past is something that constantly fascinates him.
“From about 3000 before CE (Common Era), to an almost unbroken to 10th century CE, until the Islamic invasion; for 4,000 years, we had what can be broadly called a Hindu civilization. Of course, in that I include Buddhism and Jainism because of the commonalities. So, in my view, it is important to be aware of the basic fundamentals, the remarkable wisdom, great insight and amazing complexities of this civilization. Precisely, the reason why I have been working on different aspects of it, and therefore ‘The Greatest Ode to Lord Ram: Tuslidas’s Ramcharitmanas; Selections & Commentaries’ (Westland Publishers)’,” he tells IANS.
Talking about his latest book, which is a collection of verses and stanzas of Tulisadas’ ‘Ramcharitmanas’, the author says that he wanted to make them accessible to a larger number of people for multiple reasons.
Let us not forget that ‘Ramcharitmanas’ is an outstanding piece of literary work — 12,000 lines and 1,000 stanzas of beautiful poetry in Awadhi. The epic in Ramcharitmanas is the story of Maryada Purushottam, which is an exceptionally popular work in north India and also referred as the Bible for ordinary people in north India. Gandhi called it the greatest work of devotional literature. So, in order to understand ‘Maryada Purshotam Ram’, this book is important.
Varma, who has written the commentaries, says that the motive behind that has been to understand the evolution of Hindu philosophy in two aspects — the dialect between Nirguna and Saguna. Adding that Tuslidas ultimately concludes that Ram is both a Nirguna and Saguna deity, the author adds, “From this he comes to a third very important aspect of Hindu spirituality, which is bhakti — the ability to surrender to him unconditionally, whether he is a Nirguna or Sagun. I felt it was important to work on this book as for Krishna, we had a great many writing in local languages. Considering the fact that most people won’t read the entire epic, I have made a selection, with a translation in Hindi and English, given the commentary to clarify the context, meaning and background, making it more accessible.
Adding that in order to do justice to an epic like this, it is important to be familiar with the entire tradition and the evolution of Hindu spirituality and metaphysics, he adds that he had been wanting to work on this for a long time. “All these years, I was busy as a diplomat and then a politician. Post finishing my last work ‘Adi Shankaracharya: Hinduism’s Greatest Thinker’, I thought I would devote time to this.”
Ask him about the politics being played in the name of Ram and how ‘Jai Shree Ram’ has become a war cry, the author says that it should not be forgotten that Rama was not a passive God, and he fought against injustice. “But even when he fights for justice, he does that in accordance with his essential nature, which is ‘Maryada Purshottam’. In other words, he does not harbour irrational vengeance or anger, neither resorts to violence against the innocent. Those who use violence for inflicting injury without reason, are doing an injustice to Rama.”
As the past decade or so has witnessed the emergence of multiple writers working on mythology, Varma, who is at present working on a new book on the elements of the Hindu civilization as it existed for one time for almost 4,000 years, feels that many of them do considerable research before trying to present aspects of the Hindu civilization, religion or heritage to the ordinary reader. “And there is also felt a need for that. As a result of certain historical causes, and especially after 1947, investigating the Hindu culture became tantamount to be communal. There is an entire Hindu population, which is adrift from its traditional heritage and the remarkable wisdom and refinement inherent in it.”