‘The Book of Ram’ by Devdutt Pattanaik delves into the life of Lord Ram through his relationships – son of Dashrath, student of various sages, husband of Sita, enemy of Ravana and many more. What the book deals about is better understood from the words of the author -
- ‘As Vishwamitra's student, aged 13, he had one of his first lessons. That decisions must be made in context,’ says Pattanaik. On the one hand, Ram had to protect Rishi Vishwamitra's yagna from the rakshasi, Tadaka, which means he had to kill her but wasn't killing a woman – a creator of life – one of the worst crimes in the Vedic world?
- On the other hand, with one touch of his hand, he liberated Ahalya, wife of Rishi Gautam, who had been sexually unfaithful and cursed to turn to stone. But wasn't infidelity a sin?
- ‘It showed him that everything had to be dealt with in context,’ says Pattanaik. ‘When do you kill a woman? When do you save a woman? Tadaka had to be killed whatever her sex because she interfered with dharma.
- Ahalya had to be saved because after all, infidelity is a very human folly It may deserve punishment, but not for ever.
- For Pattanaik, then, the Ramayana is a book about rites of passage. About learning, growing and understanding the depths of one's duty All that Ram goes through are what we'd call 'learning experiences' today.
- He was about to be crowned king – but at the last minute, is sent into exile for 14 years.
- ‘Could it be that he wasn't ready to be king yet?’ asks Pattanaik. ‘Maybe he needed to learn the lesson of detachment.’
- He was the only king in the history of Indian mythology to have and be faithful to only one woman. Yet, he feels he must first put Sita through an agni pariksha and later send her away so gossip mongers have no fault to find with the kingdom.
The author, Dr Devdutt Pattanaik has written extensively on Hinduism and is also noted for his lectures on the same topic.
About the book from Penguin flyer
He is Eka-vachani, a king who always keeps his word; Eka-bani, an archer who strikes his target with the first arrow; and Eka-patni, a husband who is eternally and absolutely devoted to a single wife. He is maryada purushottam Ram, the supreme upholder of social values, the scion of the Raghu clan, jewel of the solar dynasty, the seventh avatar of Vishnu, God who establishes order in worldly life.
Hindus believe that in stressful and tumultuous times chanting Ram’s name and hearing his tale, the Ramayan, brings stability, hope, peace and prosperity. Reviled by feminists, appropriated by politicians, Ram remains serene in his majesty, the only Hindu deity to be worshipped as a king.
The Book of Ram
Published by Penguin Books India
Published October 2008
Cover Price Rs 250.00