The magic of Ramayana

The period between mid-July and mid-August is called the Karkidaka Maasam or Karkataka Maasam in Kerala. It is also referred to as the Ramayana Maasam. A scholar friend who hails from God’s Own Country mentioned that in the days before the advent of technology, during this month of incessant rain, people could not step out for farm work and hence spent more time indoors. One popular way of passing time was to read the epic or listen to someone reading it in a formal or informal setting.
The Ramayana is a gripping saga of palace intrigue, family rifts, crime, retribution, war, punishment and death, with scandal and rhetoric thrown in. There is something in it for everyone — the devotee, the scholar, the critic, the pauper, the millionaire and the sovereign. It is considered a panacea for many ills, which is why most families have a copy in the house in some form or another. Even if it is not read very much, it is carefully preserved, with a certain amount of reverence.
It would be interesting to see what the ancient rishis say about the Ramayana:
Charitam Raghunaathasya shatakoti pravistaram
ekaikamaksharam pumsaam mahaa paataka nashakam
“The story of Ram (the scion of the Raghus) extends to a hundred crore couplets. Every single letter of this massive book destroys the biggest sins of those who read it.”
Another Sanskrit verse puts it in flowery language thus: “The great story of Ram is like the sacred Ganga which purifies the land it flows through. Hearing the roar of Shri Ram’s uplifting life story in the voice of Valmiki, the lion among sages, stalking unchallenged in the forest represented by poetry, which man would not attain the supreme goal?”
Nothing about Lord Ram’s odyssey is easy or smooth. It is, in fact, a frustrating journey amidst delays, obstacles, derailments and losses. Yet, he stands tall in the face of reverses, setting standards which are invoked in spheres as diverse as governance, diplomacy, ethics and interpersonal relationships. The Ramayana offers unique lessons to seekers, statesmen, managers, teachers and students, no matter what age or stage in their life they are touched by it.
Rishi Valmiki’s work has a highly lyrical quality and other scholars who have penned their own versions down the ages in different languages have walked in the steps of the great hunter-turned-poet to create works of enduring beauty. The ancients have prescribed some norms for the reading of this epic. The devout may stick to them, the lay reader may not. But whichever way one starts reading the epic, one is assuredly a different person at the end of it.

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