Last night, on the day of Dussehra, I happened to be driving by this huge congregation, which was chanting “Siya Ramchandra ki jaye”. They were responding to the burning of Ravan, Kumbhakarn and Meghnad! I couldn’t have gotten out of that area soon enough… it was suffocating. Vendors were selling sweets and bangles and cheap clothes right in the middle of the road. Cops were buying too, bargaining, indifferent to the blaring horns. I somehow manage to maneuver my way out, and I thought: What did the poor guy really do? How many times will we burn Ravan and his lazy brothers, and for what?
King Ravan was originally killed around 3,000 years ago by Lord Ram for kidnapping his wife, Sita, with the intention of marrying her. Ravan was besotted by Sita and was prepared to pay any price for it… and he did. Sita emerged as pure as she had ever been at the end of her ordeal. Looking at it purely non-emotionally, from a logical prism, Ravan did nothing that justifies his repeated killing over thousands of years.
Ravan had accorded Sita the highest of respect, she was living independently in luxurious quarters, with ample servants at her beck and call, 24×7. She lived like a queen. Ravan had made it very clear, that he will not force Sita to marry her. Of course, it was wrong to kidnap, it violated her dignity and led to great violence. However, celebrating his death anniversary each year, by shooting ‘burning rockets’ at him, even for symbolic purpose, doesn’t really serve anything. It only keeps us tied to something that is purely emotional.
And by that standard, a large section of Indian population should be burned every day… because not only do we kidnap, we kidnap children as young as two years. We also brutally rape them, and leave them to die. We also kill people because they ate something that a majority didn’t approve of. Quite a few of us abandon our parents because they feel constricted. We kidnap, kill, maim, torture, burn, drown, but all this is apparently nothing compared to what Ravan did centuries ago. Maybe he is a soft target, who can’t hit back. His only mistake was that he fell so much in love that nothing else mattered.
Durga Puja, culminating in the symbolic killing of Ravan, is a tradition that may have been maintained to give release to a whole lot of pent-up emotions, an exercise to satisfy one’s false perception of historical events. Most of us don’t even know the full relevance of the day; we simply join in the reverie and dance to the tune of ‘Baby doll’ and ‘Beedi jalayile’ at every other Durga puja pandal? People come drunk, eager to leave a damaging mark. Do we really burn Ravan because we feel truly affronted by what Ravan did to Sita Maa?
It was a tailor-made occasion for politicians, especially the BJP and the Congress. At the Parade Grounds, high and mighty politicians came to showcase their arrow-shooting skills. Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her BJP counterpart, Amit Shah, gave each other cold shoulder, and appeared to be focusing on their kill. They were shooting Ravan, but in the head, each may have wished it was the other at the receiving end of the burning arrow.
Everyone is following a system, without asking any question… and this is how most of us live.