CREDOS : Lord Ram — I

Shoba Narayan

Like all religions, Hinduism has regional variations. There are certain Hindu gods like Muruga (Karthikeya) who resonate deeply in South India but are virtually unknown in parts of the North. Similarly, Goddess Kali is hugely popular in West Bengal but is simply yet another goddess in the South. Among all the Hindu gods and goddesses, Lord Ram is one God who cuts across these regional barriers and is universally worshipped. And Sri Ram Navami, which celebrates Lord Ram’s birthday, is one of the most popular Hindu festivals in India falling normally in the month of Chaitra. What is it about Lord Ram that has made him an enduring symbol of Hinduism across North and South, East and West?

On the face of it, he appears too good to be true. As a child growing up, I had trouble relating to him, although my grandmother told us stories from the Ramayana, his epic, every night before bed. Ram seemed too perfect. He was the obedient son, willing to forgo his kingdom to preserve his father’s word. When his stepmother, Kaikeyi, banished him to the forest for 14 years, he had only kind words for her. Although he was a superlative archer and swordsman, he wasn’t slave to the passions of a warrior. Indeed, he had words of praise for the demon-king Ravan’s musical abilities even though Ravan had abducted Ram’s wife, Sita. Ram was a just king, loyal husband, dutiful son, kind brother, generous friend I mean, the man could do no wrong. Recently, I picked up the Ramayana yet again, as I usually do in the days leading up to Sri Ram Navami. But this time, as I read it, Ii began to understand why Lord Ram struck a chord with so many people. —