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Understanding Ravana is essential!


Soldiers of Ayodhya being attacked by bandits in a forest (Image link courtesy - mumbaimirror). Click for larger image.

Soldiers of Ayodhya being attacked by bandits in a forest (Image link courtesy - mumbaimirror). Click for larger image.

Most of the rakshasas have been humanised and the 10 heads of Ravan do not find mention. “People are bad from inside,” says Goel. “It doesn’t manifest physically. The 10 heads were a metaphor for the ten qualities of Ravan – valour, generosity, intelligence, knowledgeable, etc. We chose to elaborate those qualities instead of showing the heads,” says Goel.

In contrast, Ram is shabby looking, with a thick unkempt beard, long hair and no ornaments. “Being forest dwellers, Ram and Laxman could not shave every day,” explains Goel. Since this is Ravan’s story, the role of Ram’s kin has been minimised to make place for more fleshed out characters from Ravan’s family. (via The legend of the fallen one, Lifestyle – Sunday Read – Mumbai Mirror).

Ravana deserves study

This is a most interesting project. To fully and really understand Indian classics, texts and scriptures, the idea of Asuras needs to understood. I am not sure how much these writers have understood the Asura concept – and its link with slavery. They seem to be more interested in ‘balancing’ the picture, rather than ‘righting’ the picture.

Demonising Ravana

Ravana was not a demon (which is a bad English equivalent of Asura) but an asura. And some Indians have taken the easy way out, by demonising Ravana. I hope these ‘creators’ understand that demonising Ravana, or romanticising him too, is counter-productive.

Understanding Ravana is essential!

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  1. Galeo Rhinus
    February 4, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    A lot depends on how you define slavery.

    Western countries, whose economies flourished with their slavery models were clearly asuric.

    By your definition are they Asuric *today*?

    I have always argued that “slavery” was an extreme case of Asuric polity and that Asuric models come in varying shades.

    I say that modern India has embraced Asuric polity… there are no slaves… We have adopted Ravana Rajya… no wonder why so many remain confused about Ravana’s legacy.

    The relevance of Ramayana and Ramrajya gains even more significance in this context. I think the politics of Ram Janmabhoomi has created a HUGE potential to reimagining India…

    …I think this provides and opportunity that could be the tipping point for India…

    …and I hope that the Muslim leadership can distinguish between Ram the God for the Hindu faithful and Ram, the man, that Valmiki writes so eloquently about… …that the story of this man has the potential to transform India and the lives of all people for the better… including Muslims in India as well…

  2. February 4, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    A lot depends on how you define slavery.

    Galeo – I have defined slavery many times. History has not changed. Desert Bloc has not changed. My definition has not changed. Your need to give your country of adoption a clean chit has not changed.

    I understand – but it won’t fly. Nada.

    The word slave, comes from the word Slav – a tribe from Eastern Europe. Mongol armies captured Slavs by the thousands and sold these captives to The Merchant of Venice, Florence, etc. – who built huge business empires, built on trade of these Slav-slaves to Egyptian Mameluks and Turkish rulers.

    See the link between Renaissance and slavery? See where Shakespeare picked up his story? Fortunes made by these Italian traders were similar to British fortunes made by Transatlantic African-slave trade.

    The Doges (rulers) of Venice were like American judges of today when it came to treating people – kill them, hang them, imprison them … Do anything to the people – but The City of Venice must float. It still does. As does America.

    Western countries, whose economies flourished with their slavery models were clearly asuric.

    By your definition are they Asuric *today*?

    For this, you will need to resolve the contradiction between your theories of ‘Semitic-burden-of-social-change’ and RSS-version-of-social-change. Add to this mish-mash, your idea that revolutions can solve problems – especially in India.

    Dissembling about shades of gray …*today* … revolutions will not resolve these contradictions

    I have always argued that “slavery” was an extreme case of Asuric polity and that Asuric models come in varying shades.

    I say that modern India has embraced Asuric polity… there are no slaves…

    Favorite Desert Bloc trick! All human beings are born of sin. I can see your overwhelming need and reasons to condemn modern India.

    To understand, where India is, in terms of sur-asur matrix, please read the Matsya-Purana.

    We have adopted Ravana Rajya… no wonder why so many remain confused about Ravana’s legacy.

    The relevance of Ramayana and Ramrajya gains even more significance in this context.

    I have shown how India’s-compact-with-Western-systems happened – including the motivations and compulsions. I also think the idea of Bharattantra is something that will fly. Notice, the quantum of comments on that post.

    I think the politics of Ram Janmabhoomi has created a HUGE potential to reimagining India…

    …I think this provides and opportunity that could be the tipping point for India…

    …and I hope that the Muslim leadership can distinguish between Ram the God for the Hindu faithful and Ram, the man, that Valmiki writes so eloquently about…

    If I cannot ‘distinguish between Ram the God for the Hindu faithful and Ram, the man, that Valmiki writes so eloquently about’ … I wonder if Muslims can …

    I doubt if there is a difference at all. One flows from the other. I don’t think Rama is the issue at all.

    The issue is clearly religion as a construct. Religion by its nature is competitive – and it is religion, we must tackle. Secularism is simply, another side of the Desert Bloc’s mayavi Rubic’s cube.

    …that the story of this man has the potential to transform India and the lives of all people for the better… including Muslims in India as well…

    Completely. Just see the number of kings named Rama in Middle East between 2500-500 BC.

    Give people time. They need to understand Ravana first to understand Rama. Just like the story of how Valmiki, the daaku could not say Rama … Rama … Since Rama is a syllabic palindrome, Narada taught Valmiki to say maRa … maRa … maRa …

  3. Galeo Rhinus
    February 7, 2011 at 3:54 am

    Whoa… that’s a lot of allegations without even answering my first question. Let’s go one step at a time.

    To repeat – By your definition – is the west asuric *TODAY*?

    I am not even remotely defending the US. I am calling it Asuric – absolutely – unequivocally. My question is why are you?

  4. February 7, 2011 at 6:31 am

    I did not know that it was possible for societies, nations, leadership, to change their very nature, character *today*.

    Everything I know says that individuals can and do change rarely, (remember Valmiki). Coming to societies, nations, leadership, the last time such total-change, a transformation happened, was when Gautama Buddha’s disciples changed half the world. The first time it happened was probably when Sargon of Akkad did that. I have some interesting evidence, that he was Raja Agrasen from Agroha (Agodha) in Haryana.

    Your demand for daily evaluation seems definitely non-empirical, devoid of any merit – based purely on need to derive subjective satisfaction.

    However, I am willing to suspend opinion and take a 2ndlook – if you can give me a lead on the defining moment, leader, ideology, creative effort which brought about this change that you can see, and I can’t, in the Desert Bloc.

  5. raman
    February 7, 2011 at 9:34 am

    look forward to reading about raja agrasen (whose name can these days be seen in lot of places in delhi – UP – Harayana: colleges / roads / & of course the famous baoli in delhi; and sargaon (???) of akkad (????)

  6. Galeo Rhinus
    February 7, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    >>I am willing to suspend opinion and take a 2ndlook…

    I am not in the remotest way trying to convince you that the US is not asuric…

    Again – to repeat myself – I am claiming that the US *TODAY* is ASURIC… but my definition does not make slavery as the only criteria…

    I am simply trying to understand why YOU are calling the US Asuric, TODAY? What “character” has not changed?

  7. February 7, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    I am surprised … I have posted an in-depth article on what makes for Asuric Desert Bloc systems compared to Bharattantric systems. Shortlink http://goo.gl/4pYYU

    Is there anywhere, on any count that USA can be excluded from the Desert Bloc. Slavery is a significant and reliable marker – but by no means the only one. Technically, USA abolished slavery nearly 150 years ago – both of us know. Now, 150 years wihout slavery is a lo-oo-ong time to go without slaves.

    Ask me – this is only a technical retreat. The next Desert Bloc faction is somewhere getting ready to inflict their worst ideas on people.

  8. Galeo Rhinus
    February 7, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    So is only the desert bloc asuric?

    …what about China? Is it Asuric today? Was it ever Asuric? Japan? South America – before Europeans?

    Was India ever asuric? were parts of modern geographical India ever asuric?

  9. February 8, 2011 at 3:00 am

    These cycles work out over centuries. Indian classical historiography gives some great insights. Like I said above, Matsya Purana.

    I too am working on a post which will gather and tie together what has been said in 600 posts. It will provide a technical framework and better picture for mental modeling. It is 80% done. So, especially the China question is a part of that that post.

  10. manu
    February 9, 2011 at 8:10 am

    If we read the ancient texts and I am taking them as real historic events that transpired in India… We see a trend… The puranas speak of deva asuras… By the time of Ramayana rakshas were in vogue and powerful…and mahabharata mentions them as marginalised people in jungles(hidimba etc)….As in asuras are completely missing by the time of mahabharata…… Did the Indic disconnect with the asuric societies had happened by the time of the great war…..?

  11. February 9, 2011 at 9:59 am

    Bravo, Manu! Sometimes, questions are better than the answer! Your question is superlative and completely awesome. Any answer will not be good enough.

    If we read the ancient texts and I am taking them as real historic events that transpired in India…

    There is history in there. No doubts about that. Do we know how to read it? If we approach these texts with a superior attitude, we have lost it.

    We see a trend… The puranas speak of deva asuras… By the time of Ramayana rakshas were in vogue and powerful…

    Ramayana has an entire section devoted to the birth of Ganga.

    Now read the birth of Ganga with the drying of Saraswati history, along with the history of Akkad, Babylon, Assyria, Mittanis, Hittites, Kassites, Elamites, (with the latter day Medes and Lydians) and the whole jigsaw starts fitting in. The Saraswati dried up between 3000-2000 BC – coinciding with a global 1000 year drought.

    mahabharata mentions them as marginalised people in jungles(hidimba etc)….As in asuras are completely missing by the time of mahabharata……

    By the time of Mahabharata, the Asuras were in full retreat. Apart from token presence of Bakasura, Kamsa, Jarasandha (was he an asur?), Hidimba, et al. Another token Indraprastha by Mayasura. So, while the memory and linkages are all there, the asuras are upstarts. Clearly a spent force.

    The Half-Golden Mongoose story in the Mahabharata also explains how atithi-devo-bhavah helped in The Great Migration – from Saraswati valleys and banks to the Indo-Gangetic plains. Greece was going through the Dark Ages. Sumer collapsed. Assyrian empire was in shambles – and the Neo-Assyrian Empire was beginning.

    Dating this stuff seems a little complex. Was Mahabharat a 2000 BC affair? Chariots, horses, elephants are all there – correctly. But, correctly no cavalry and horse riding.

    Krishna’s exalted status – as the representative of the Yadu clan that had domesticated cattle and Balarama, who invented the plough, canals and irrigation. Also Krishna and Balarama as the inventors of unarmed combat. Fits well.

    Did the Indic disconnect with the asuric societies had happened by the time of the great war…..?

    The Disconnect happened, I think, around 400-700 AD. While Buddhism was still a strong force. After Rome had collapsed. Before Islam, while Christianity was still a minor force. Soon after this from 800 AD onwards, we start seeing temples. Big, grand temples for the first tme in India. Am working on some of these points.

    Once again, Great Question.

  12. manu
    February 10, 2011 at 12:06 am

    Yes I believe a lot has to be done to connect the texts with what transpired on land…And your research/blog is an excellent start in this regard…. A lot of good work in regards to removing the confusion in the texts has been done by Satya of http://www.ancientindians.net … her analysis is purely based on texts but some of the posts like generations between rama and krishna , vanaras as forest dwelling human tribe etc Paint a different picture of the texts( makes them more historic records than mythology ) …. BTW there are references of Sahdeva of the pandavas meeting Vibhishan (ravana’s brother) in Mahabharata ….

  13. Galeo Rhinus
    February 10, 2011 at 1:18 am

    >>I too am working on a post which will gather and tie together what has been said in 600 posts.

    As much as I am a fan of your posts and would love to dig through them to find the answer… it might save me a lot of time if you could simply answer this simple question – by your metric of slavery – was China ever Asuric? and if it is not too much trouble… was Japan ever Asuric? I might be stretching my luck here – but do you think the Mayans were Asuric? How about the Mongols – were they Asuric?

    …and then, using your multi-century averaging algorithm – can you say if is anyone NOT asuric TODAY?

  14. S. Dave
    February 10, 2011 at 3:39 am

    I would want to click ‘like’ — but i ain’t sure completely of the analysis. But its true, without understanding “Asura” — its hard to understand anything of the ancient puranic texts. one type of definition would be to say those who have more of the Asuric qualities defined in Gita – are Asura. Its association with immoral and unethical activities is but natural, as anybody possessed by those qualities would be unstable/unethical/highly selfish/much more physically oriented.

    Imporatance of Sri Rama is very much — many egyptian kings were “Ramsey” and even today many western names are Ramon, Ramey etc.

    Understanding Rama is very important to understand indian history. as Sri Rama incarnated much earlier than presently accepted date of Gita in 3100s BC.

    in that sense there are many Asuras in present India itself — lets not make Asura theory ethnical — that was fault in the past and would be a fault again.

  15. raman
    February 10, 2011 at 4:38 am

    galeo u have a point (u could even ask was duryodhan an asura, what about kamsa). personally, i am not very clear as to what exactly is anurag’s evidence that Ravana was running a slave joint in lanka. is there a singele sentence anywhere in the ramayana or elsewhere in Indian literature that lanka was overflowing with slaves. valmimki talks of rakshahas harassing rishis, disrupting yagnas, and even eating the poor guys but nowhere does it mention rishis or other manavas being carted of to lanka and set to work in the mines or plantations or watering ashok vatika!!! I think the distinction between asuaras and manavas or aryas was more a spiritual thing (code of conduct / dharma etc.) than just based on slavery, at least thats what people like Sri Aurobindo defined it as. After all Ravana was a master of the vedas, knew the difference between dharmma / adharma, all the well known asuras practised tapas, same as the rishis but the objectives varied.

  16. February 10, 2011 at 4:44 am

    simply answer this simple question – by your metric of slavery – was China ever Asuric? and if it is not too much trouble… was Japan ever Asuric? I might be stretching my luck here – but do you think the Mayans were Asuric? How about the Mongols – were they Asuric?

    Asuric systems have a place, name, context, society in history. Asuristan was aprovince of the Achamaneid Empire. Desert Bloc took its root in that soil – in that place, name, context, society. Other societies have tried copying Asuric systems, some others have been ruled by them. But, Asuricsystems are not prima facie black. After all Devas were asked to collaborate with Asuric– and Brahma /Shiva routinely bless them.

    Coming to current history, Japan is definitely not Asuric. I know very little of Mayans to say anything about them. Since we are not on the Daily Asuric Predictor Matrix (DAPM); but on a Multi-century Averaging Algorithmic Plan (MAAP), waiting for 4-6 weeks while I work out the post is better.

  17. Galeo Rhinus
    February 11, 2011 at 12:25 am

    Raman – While I remain a loyal Anuraag blog reader, this is one critical area where I disagree with him.

    I believe that Asuras represented a certain style of governance that restrict individual freedom. Extreme case of Asuric polity was clearly slavery. I argue that Asurism comes in shades of gray… and that the entire world, *today*, including China, Japan and India has embraced Asurism.

    India vs. the US. Both India and the US are asuric. India has embraced a foreign polity that is Asuric, while the US is “natively” Asuric… and therefore there is stronger potential within it to discard Asurism… as it has done several times in the past.

    Valmiki writes that Ram’s birth was necessary to defeat Ravana who had caused havoc in the trilokas.

  18. raman
    February 11, 2011 at 4:37 am

    Galeo – I think essentially what we are saying is the same thing. Organized religion, especially the “one god, one book types” / fanaticism / Slavery / committing genocide / an exploitative attitude towards environment / restricting freedom / obsessed with ideologies etc. etc. I think these are some the chief characteristics of the desert bloc or asuric systems. I too have no disagreements with Anurag (his scholarship and analysis are absolutely amazing) except when he tries to show islam as somehow less asuric then the western world.

  19. February 13, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    Let me take another shot at this Islamic-religious-persecution model of history by using a more up-to-date and modern model.

    After WWII, as British, French and Dutch colonialists were being thrown out of Asia, in country after country, the West was in real danger of losing markets and raw material sources. What do you think they did – wring hands and moan?

    1. A new power, fuelled by a growing migrant population, USA, took the place of tired, old powers – Britain, France and the Dutch.

    2. Instead of the old system of European powers directly running the colonial governments in these Asian countries, the US simply destroyed these economies by war. The USA, then instituted the innovative USCAP Program and ‘helped’ these countries.

    3. These countries (Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, et al) were now ruled by overtly independent regimes – but covertly, client states of the USA.

    4. Instead of British, French and Dutch companies, US multinationals and home-grown oligarchs (keiretsus, chaebols, etc.) took over the economy.

    5. To impose this economic model,
    nearly 50 lakh Asians were killed by US armies.

    Now do you think US told everybody what its strategy and objectives were? Obviously not. Instead the US: –

    * Made a new enemy – communism and The Domino Theory. (After the ‘defeat’ of Communism, the new campaign is Islamic Demonization).

    * The West then created a religion with new idols for this campaign.

    * The new religion is Westernization – and the new idols installed in our minds were democracy, progress, elections, capitalism, free-markets, planned economies, etc.

    * 50 lakh Asians were killed in the name of this new religion – and these new idols.

    Did these nearly 1 million Western soldiers kill 5 million Asians for: –

    1. Creating a market for dominant US companies?

    2. For ‘democracy’, ‘capitalism’ ‘human rights’ etc.?

    3. For any cause at all?

    These 1 million soldiers killed because they were paid, trained and equipped to kill. These soldiers obeyed orders – and killed people.

    Why assume that Islamic soldiers were significantly different?

    Whether it is Christian Crusades or Islamic conquests, modern jihads and US Anti-Communism campaign of 40 years, WWI and WWII – all were fought for political and economic benefit of the rulers. Religion was a red-herring for the people and soldiers – who paid for these wars, with money and lives.

    Just like we have accepted this new religion of Westernization now, people accepted Islam – and killed millions for the ‘spread’ of Islam. Just like millions are being killed even today for ‘democracy’ ‘progress’ ‘free-markets’.

    Any difference!

  20. Galeo Rhinus
    February 14, 2011 at 5:07 am

    No difference of thought here.

  21. Raman
    February 14, 2011 at 6:29 am

    Anurag, nicely summed up. the whole desret bloc structure (the three “religions” and their modern offshoots, i.e., the various “isms”) is essentially asuric, in varying shades of grey. thanks for the write-up.

  22. Galeo Rhinus
    February 14, 2011 at 8:15 am

    On a side note… The Ram temple in Ayodhya was destroyed around 1530… the same time as Tulsi Das’ birth… could not be a coincidence that Ram Charita Manas was written shortly after the destruction of the temple. I suspect that the “hello” and “goodbye” became “ram ram” around the same time. Ram’s temple, I guess began to spring up in every nook and corner. The rulers could take down Ram’s temple, but his name, his memory and his legacy sprung back.

    That’s India’s resilience… Ram was a rallying cry for freedom then… as it does now.

  23. February 14, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Response to S. Dave’s comment.

    one definition of Asuric qualities defined in Gita (is) Its association with immoral and unethical activities -qualities would be unstable /unethical /highly selfish /much more physically oriented.

    Such arbitrary, subjective definitions cannot be used by such a vast body of compositions, by many authors, across centuries. For the concept of asuras to be used for thousands of years, it has to better defined, less vague, less amorphous, more specific. My post on Bharattantra, defines Asuric systems on 50 specific parameters.

    To make a simple and obvious point, Indra has apsaras – is a sur. Indra seduces Ahalya, Gautam rishi’s wife – that is physical. I am yet to see altruism in Indian classics.

    there are many Asuras in present India itself — lets not make Asura theory ethnical — that was fault in the past and would be a fault again.

    India is confused at times – especially the educated, Westernized, English-speaking, ‘modern’, middle-class. So, asur ideas and beliefs do get traction, at times.

  24. Galeo Rhinus
    February 15, 2011 at 6:04 am

    S. Dave’s and Anuraag.

    This is how I see the perceived dichotomy.

    An Asuric mindset thrives in an Asuric polity. This is how I tie Asuras and Asurism. India always had Asuras… however Dharma, a system of polity kept them at bay. With the demise of Dharma and rise of Asurism, Asuras, Indians as well as foreign are wreaking havoc around the world, including India.

  25. October 7, 2011 at 12:51 pm

  26. Art lopez
    March 18, 2012 at 12:53 am

    are shakdwipis Asuras? do they rule over the western system? Is it true that many of them have created many many empires other than the Maurya empire? Why will they want a new world order? it’s very dificult to find answers to the at a latin country please help.

  1. February 5, 2011 at 12:22 am

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