Interpreting Ramayan for the Millennial Gen

ramayanRamnavami, the day Lord Rama was born into the human world is celebrated with a lot of devotion across India. The life of Maryadapurush – the ideal human – the divine one, who showed to the world that despite challenges and difficulties, it is indeed possible for a human being to lead a life of righteousness – is narrated as stories, as folklore, as an epic – The Ramayan – written in its numerous versions across India. In the recent times, one such version in the form of a television series was showcased as ‘Siya Ke Raam’ on Star Plus by the makers of yet another popular mythological-based serial, ‘Devon ka Dev Mahadev’ (the programme launched towards the end of 2015). With the help of authors like Devdutt Patnaik and ‘Asura’ fame Anand Neelankantan, a group of writers created a script taking inspiration from the several versions available across the country. The specialty of the television series is that – as the title suggests – the story of Ram is said through the voice of Sita, and not just that; the many prominent women in Ramayan got their voices through this televised version of Ramayan – Dasarth’s wives Kaushalya and Sumitra, Janak’s wife Sunaina, Ahalya etc.
Interestingly the television serial has brought into focus interesting aspects hitherto not discussed – as author Devdutt Patnaik revealed in one of his interviews – Mithila Raja Janak also popular as Raaj Rishi, refuses to marry someone else when his wife tells him to do so as she did not bear a child. And he says, “If this is the reason for the famine that Mithila is languishing in since 12 years, then I am equally responsible for this.” The court of Janak is known for the reading of Upanishads and knowledge. He is an embodiment of a leader who says he will denounce the throne for someone else if he is unable to make the lives of his people better. And here is born Sita and there is joy unlimited. There is no mention of desire for having a son in the family. Indeed Janak proclaims that he wants his dynasty to be known after his eldest daughter Janaki. Sita is evidently well-educated and knowledgeable and has learnt the Upanishads. And for this reason, comes across as intelligent and understanding. She gets married to the noble prince Ram, into the family of Dasarath, a family that has observed Putrakameshti Yaag wishing for sons, where the Raja has three wives and in a way is representative of the patriarchy, which we speak of in so many ways in the current times.
The story of Lord Rama is probably one of the first story any Indian Hindu kid would have heard – initially in the form of a bed-time story and then he goes on to learn more about Ramayan in many ways. While there are numerous folklores and versions of Ramayan in circulation, it is the Tulsidas Ramayan or the Valmiki’s Sanskrit version that is more popular. The television series made by Ramanand Sagar ‘Ramayan’ that has Arun Govil as Ram was extremely popular in the 80s and it followed the Tulsidas version of Ramayan. It was so popular that the roads would be empty while the serial was telecast as the entire family would sit glued onto the television.
The young generation fed on internet is no longer ready to listen to the story of Ramayan without asking questions. Why did Ram after marrying Sita and despite his love for her and duty as a husband, why did he leave her? Why was she asked to jump into fire to prove her purity? And as an answer to these questions several feminists writers have narrated the greatest epic in women’s perspective.
‘Siya Ke Ram’ also being telecast as ‘Janaki Ramudu’ in Telugu since January this year is indeed like a breath of fresh air as it not only presents various perspectives of Ramayan, it also focuses on the greatly significant yet often ignored characters of the great epic, especially the women. This is not just the story of Lord Ram; it is infact the story of the making of Lord Ram – what makes him the most ideal of the men and what attributes to his divinity.
It is sensibly made and well executed (with rich costumes, large sets and extravagant canvas, and an excellent technical team) programmes like these that will appeal to the millennial generation, and help them understand Lord Rama and the fundamental message that Ramayan has to give – that is more relevant than ever in the current times of strife. More focus is needed to reorient the way we pass on our culture and tradition to the younger generations – in the language that they understand. To this effect, ‘Siya Ke Raam’ is a good beginning.

Medaram Jathara

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