Saturday, May 30, 2009



Ravana in his court:
Radheshyam Temple,Bishnupur,WB,India.

This was the afternoon of an autumn day millenniums ago. The ground was littered with dead bodies of soldiers and carcasses of elephants and horses. Scattered were the skeletons of chariots which carried proud heroes of those days. Sunset and the dark night of new moon were a few hours away.

Yet, Ravana realized another kind of darkness was descending from the sky, slowly, to envelope his chariot and his being . He noticed, far off , Matali, who was driving Rama’s chariot at the behest of his master Indra, the king of the gods, turned back to whisper something to Ram. Ram nodded and then picked up a deadly weapon from his quiver and aimed at him.

Ravana now knew his end was near. He would not give up….he searched for the harshest arrow from the few he was left with and waited for Ram to decide on the course of the projectile his weapon would take. All this while, snatches from his life floated in front of his eyes….

His mother Kaikasi, talking to young Ravana, then known as Dasagriva, about his half-brother Kubera’s wealth, thus kindling the first fire of ambition in his heart which propelled him to this position of strength and wealth ….. The anger of Lord Shiva , when he disturbed His privacy when He was with Parvati in His abode at Mount Kailash and the crushing pain he was subjected to by Shiva as punishment …….. Indra’s humiliated face as his soldiers took away the prized possessions from the Heaven to Lanka……His first night with Mandodari, the woman from far off land with rare grace and beauty……..Young Indrajit, his dear son who left this world because of his own obsession with Sita…… and Sita whom he could not win over ……

Ravana suddenly realized Ram had released the weapon of Death towards him. Its bulk was propelled by the Lord of wind .It was emitting fire and there was a silence among his soldiers, as if they were wondering if a countermove by him would be possible and more importantly effective. Ravana’ lips muttered ‘Oh!Lord Shiva’ as he released his arrow, determined to go down fighting…. .

Ravana did not watch the feeble resistance his arrow offered to the projectile of Death that was approaching his chariot He had a dark canvass in front of his eyes, with Sita in its centre, as beautiful and desirable as he saw her for the first time in Dandakaranya , repeating the curse of Vedabati .As he extended his hands ….asking for an embrace or forgiveness….we shall never know, Death struck his chariot .

History would commemorate that moment of victory of Ram and end of the life and regime of King Ravana as victory of good over evil. In parallel lore, however, Ravana would be remembered as a great, scholarly and valiant ruler. All the women of his life, except for Mandodary and Sita, would go into oblivion.

After suffering the horror of abduction and anguish of a life of isolation in Ashokaban of Ravana’s palace, Sita had to suffer humiliation of suspicion of her husband and a section of his subjects till the end of her life. Ram would not be able to conquer the shadow of Ravana during his lifetime too .

Ravana in his chariot:

Ramchandra Temple,Guptipara,WB,India.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


A few days ago, I was reading the reaction of Veronica Lario to the ‘roving eyes’ of her husband Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister of Italy. I searched the internet for a bit more of details regarding the background and came across the stories linking Mara Carfagna with the Prime Minister of Italy and the painting made by Filippo Panesca. depicting Berlusconi as an almost naked angel in company of bare-bodied Mara C. (
Veronica Lario now retaliated by having a painting of her, similarly clothed, in an exhibition and the Internet……she too appears as a beautiful angel. (
The matter did not end there. Veronica will very likely divorce her husband,19 years her senior , since she has run out of patience with Berlusconi’s ways with beautiful women, whom she calls ‘the emperor’.
Yet, Berlusconi is very popular in his country as well among the neighbouring states because of his capability and charisma, which is aided by his ‘high libido’. Our society and history have idolized Rulers and Kings who had insatiable thirst for expansion and at the same time, kept a large harem engaged. We do not have emperors any more, but, we have our John F Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Berlusconi.
History has not been kind to one such King, whose testosterone level was his nemesis. He is Ravana , a King who was learned, a good ruler, well-respected by his subjects and possessed excellent military skill. As we find from the laments of his wives and other women whom he brought into his bed and his palace, after his fall at the hand of Ram , he was loved by his women. Among the major negatives of his character, his uncontrollable sexual urge was the single largest cause of his and his regime’s downfall.

In a way, Valmiki Ramayana and many other version of this epic story have not been fair to this great King. His positives have been mentioned in passing while his negatives have been highlighted. But, there are others in South India, Michael Madhusudan in Bengal and presently several historians/Internet communities in Sri Lanka, who have viewed and portrayed King Ravana in positive light. I am not aware if anyone doubted about his over-active libido.

Had he remained satisfied with the women he married and later on ‘conquered’, his life would have been different. But, he raped Vedabati and forcibly took the paramour of his step-brother Kuber’s son to his bed ( strictly speaking, this is not incest, but, very nearly so). I found there is at least one more high-profile woman’s rape and complaint have been recorded in the chronicle. There must have been many more ! Finally, his death came because he abducted Sita , a woman whose beauty and sexual attraction kept his mind engaged for months while the consequent string of tragic events devastated his family and regime.

Someday, a poet , as great and capable as Michael Madhusaudan, will write a ballad on Ravana’s fatal attraction for Sita.