The Makeover of Raavan

By Sandeep Sahu

Suddenly, Raavan is getting a complete makeover. The man (Or is it demon?) we have all grown up believing as evil incarnate is all of a sudden being seen as the epitome of myriad virtues. Posts doing the rounds on social media – WhatsApp and Facebook, in particular – are eulogizing the ‘virtues’ of Ravana that we never knew existed. The posts exude more empathy than anger against him.

Sample this.

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“It’s not easy to be Raavan

If he had boastfulness, he also had the ability to repent

If Raavan was lustful, he also had self control

If Raavan had the power to kidnap Sita

He also had the resolve not to touch her without her consent

That Sita was found alive was Ram’s power

But that she was found unviolated was Raavan’s honour

Ram, the Raavan of your times was good

He kept all his 10 faces open

Have you ever felt the agony of the burning Raavan

Who asked the crowd in front

“Are there any Rams among you?”

Readers of this column, I am sure, would have received – or shared – their quota of such nuggets of wisdom hailing the virtuous Raavan over the last couple of days.

What could have led to this rethink on Raavan? We all know that Raavan was a repository of all knowledge, master of all four Vedas and the author of Shiva Tandav Stotra. But that has not stopped us from looking at him as evil incarnate. So why this sudden change in the way he is looked at?

Is it some evil design by some Hindu baiters to glorify someone we have all taken as the personification of all that is wrong and undesirable in man? Or is it, as a Kanpur-based friend surmises, a Brahmin conspiracy?

“Going by the posts that are being exchanged on WhatsApp and FB, it seems ‘Raavan dahan’ will soon stop throughout India….it will soon become a thing of the past…..the credit goes to WhatsApp and FB…..Brahmins have become vocal against ‘Raavan dahan’,” writes friend Rohit Ghosh in a Facebbok post today.

It is of course another example of the eclectic nature of Hinduism that has multiple interpretations of the same mythical occurrence, the absence of dogma and its inherent ability to question and challenge conventional wisdom. It could well be a reflection of the same eclecticism that allows some to worship Mahishashur even as the vast majority of Hindus worship Durga, the goddess who killed her.

But beyond the religious and philosophical interpretations, could it be a manifestation of a political design that challenges something that Hindus have taken for granted for centuries?

This author doesn’t have either the scholarship or the audacity to even attempt to solve this riddle. May be social scientists and those with the required knowledge and understanding of our scriptures would know the answer.