Monday 1 April 2024

Ramo Vigrahavan Dharmah - रामो विग्रहवान् धर्मः। : Yuva Bharati APRIL 2024

 Ramo Vigrahavan Dharmah  - रामो विग्रहवान् धर्मः।

The month of March-April brings Ramnavami. In many places the Ramkatha, study of Ramayana and the celebration of Ramnavami would be taking place. That is good to some extent. Some may not even remember that Ramnavami came and left. That is not so good. What is the purpose of celebrating Ramnavami? If we understand it then we shall see that this is a festival that is to be celebrated by all irrespective of what god they worship, irrespective of their creed. By saying that Ramnavami is just a religious festival of some we are missing the significance of Rama’s life and thereby the great inspiration that we can get for a holistic living.

There are some who are bent upon saying that Rama did not exist and so what is the point in celebrating the birth of Rama who was just a product of a great poet’s imagination. But we know that archaeology, literature, folk tradition, everything points to the historicity of Rama. As put forward by one well-known writer, “Did Rama exist? Yes, I am quite sure he did. Rama’s life was a fact. His divinity is a matter of faith. To doubt the existence of Rama is to doubt all literature. There is no archaeological or epigraphic evidence for either Jesus Christ or Prophet Mohammed, who are known only from the Bible and Koran, respectively. Does it mean they did not exist? If Rama performs miracles such as liberating Ahalya, the Biblical story of Jesus walking on water or the Koranic tale of Mohammed flying to heaven on a horse are equally miraculous. Such stories reinforce divinity, not fact.”
Saying so, the writer enumerates the sites that are associated with Rama and archaeology proves the historicity of Rama: “The Ramayana is geographically very correct. Every site on Rama’s route is still identifiable and has continuing traditions or temples to commemorate Rama’s visit. Around 1000 BC, no writer had the means to travel around the country inventing a story, fitting it into local folklore and building temples for greater credibility.

“…In 249 BC, Ashoka erected a pillar in Lumbini with an inscription referring to the visits by both Rama and Buddha to Lumbini. Ashoka was much nearer in time to Rama and would be well aware of his facts.

“Rama, Lakshmana and Sita left Ayodhya and went to Sringaverapura — modern Sringverpur in Uttar Pradesh — where they crossed the River Ganga. They lived on Chitrakoot hill… Thereafter, the three wandered through Dandakaranya in Central India... The trio reached Nasik, on the River Godavari, which throbs with sites and events of Rama’s sojourn, such as Tapovan where they lived, Ramkund, where Rama and Sita used to bathe, Lakshmankund, Lakshmana’s bathing area, and several caves in the area associated with their lives in the forest.

“Rama then moved to Panchavati near Bhadrachalam (AP), where Ravana abducted Sita. The dying Jatayu told them of the abduction, so they left in search of Sita. Kishkinda, near Hampi, where Rama first met Sugriva and Hanuman, is a major Ramayana site, where every rock and river is associated with Rama. Anjanadri, near Hospet, was the birthplace of Hanuman (Anjaneya); Sugriva lived in Rishyamukha on the banks of the Pampa (Tungabhadra); Sabari probably also lived in a hermitage there. Rama and the Vanara army left Kishkinda to reach Rameshwaram, where the Vanaras built a bridge to Lanka from Dhanushkodi on Rameshwaram Island to Talaimannar in Sri Lanka. While parts of the bridge — now known as Adam’s Bridge — are still visible, NASA’s satellite has photographed an underwater man-made bridge of shoals in the Palk Straits, connecting Dhanushkodi and Talaimannar. On his return from Sri Lanka, Rama worshipped Shiva at Rameshwaram, where Sita prepared a Linga out of sand.

“Sri Lanka also has relics of the Ramayana. There are several caves, such as Ravana Ella Falls, where Ravana is believed to have hidden Sita to prevent Rama from finding her. The Sitai Amman Temple at Numara Eliya is situated near the ashokavana where Ravana once kept her prisoner…

“All the places visited by Rama still retain memories of his visit, as if it happened yesterday. Time, in India, is relative. Some places have commemorative temples; others commemorate the visit in local folklore. But all agree that Rama was going from or to Ayodhya. Why doubt connections when literature, archaeology and local tradition meet? Why doubt the connection between Adam’s Bridge and Rama, when nobody else in Indian history has claimed its construction? (Incidentally, this bridge shown as  Ramar Bridge on a 1788 map drawn by the botanist explorer Joseph Parks. And it was renamed as Adam’s Bridge, in 1804, by J. Rennel, the First Surveyor General of the East India Company!) Why doubt that Rama travelled through Dandakaranya or Kishkinda, where local non-Vedic tribes still narrate tales of Rama? Why doubt that he was born in and ruled over Ayodhya? Rama’s memory lives on because of his extraordinary life and his reign, which was obviously a period of great peace and prosperity, making Ramarajya a reference point.”

In what way was Rama’s life extra-ordinary? What does it mean by Ramarajya? We do not go deep in these questions because there is another category of persons, who say ok, Rama is historical but so what? His way of life, the values that he practiced are now most obsolete. So what is the point in celebrating or remembering him?

The third category is of devotees of Rama. They accept Rama as incarnation and on special days like Ramnavami they would have Bhajan or Ramkatha. Thereby, for most of them (but by no means for all) the responsibility ends. They do not think of the need of explaining Rama in today’s language to the younger generation so as to make them also the ardent devotees and followers of Sri Rama.

As per our tradition this was part of Rishiyagna, that a householder should understand and study the vision of the Rishis, the objects of deep reverence. Not just study but he should understand the vision of the Rishis as well as the objects of reverence in the modern context and then should pass it on to the next generation. Rishiyagna is passing on the vision as well as practices so as to keep the continuity of tradition in a changed context. Such practice of Rishiyagna made our culture eternal. Occasions like Ramnavami are the opportunities to perform Rishiyagna.

In the era of individualism, the life of Rama might have appeared obsolete, who for the sake of his father’s promise to his step-mother went to forest for fourteen years or who gave up his wife for the sake of the congenial atmosphere in the society. Rama verily appears outdated in the light of individualism.

But today, as science is progressing, our view or vision of the world is changing. Our world-view has undergone change. We do not say any more that it is survival of the fittest but we say that the universe is interconnected, interrelated and interdependent. We know that if nature is destroyed, man stands the risk of getting destroyed. Since the sub-atomic studies, study of ecology, of cellular biology has revealed this fact interconnectedness, there is a deeper search by the contemporary but thinking man. The search is for that way of life which protects nature, which nurtures the society and family and which also helps the individual's inner growth. All this is comprised in one word for us, and that is Dharma.

Dharma is not any set of dogmas to be believed in but it is a way of life based on eternal principles which give us the interpersonal norms of behavior so that integrated human development, and harmony in the family and society is achieved. Western education over the years has in a way hampered our understanding of Dharma. Therefore, unthinkingly Dharma gets translated as religion. But religion is different. Religion means a defined God, a revealed book and a prescribed way of prayers to pray to that God. Dharma is not a religion. Dharma is not what comes to you as a prescribed way of worship by someone. Dharma is not taught, it is sensed inherently. Dharma is a matrix of values sensed by all human beings as value system and thereby accepted by all as the basis for interaction. Everyone knows what is wrong and what is right. Everyone knows what is being selfish and what is in the interest of the Whole. Dharma is doing right in the interest of the whole. Dharma is what you grow into with your initiative and efforts. Man has all the freedom to wreak havoc around. Dharma is the inner brake system to control and mould man so as to become the harmonious part of the whole. Thus a man’s life is for the family, the family is for the society, the society is for the nation and the nation is for the whole creation.

Therefore, we can say that Dharma means holistic living. But because of the mechanistic, reductionist training that we have had, it becomes difficult for us to understand Dharma, and that is where the life of Rama is very useful. Rama is considered as Dharma personified. 'Ramo Vigrahvan Dharma'. The Ramayana starts with Valmiki asking Narada who was the greatest man who ever lived on earth. Narada narrates the story of Rama, the King of Ayodhya. Rama was considered as Vigrahvan Dharma. Dharma personified, because each and every action of Sri Rama was for the higher good, in the larger interest. He does not allow the selfish interests, personal attachments or likes and dislikes or false values of prestige to take precedence in choosing the action in the interest of the society.

By giving up his personal claim on the kingdom and the material enjoyment, Sri Rama went to the forest for maintaining the tradition of the family. Then, when it was required, he sacrificed his family joys in order to retain the moral values in the society; to nurture a value-based society. It was not the question of what was the truth about Sita’s character, but it was the question of what was the perception of people. And when the perception of some in the society was of doubt about character, then in such a situation neither Sita nor their children could have grown in a healthy atmosphere. Thus his action turned out to be for the larger interest of the family too. 

The lesson from Sri Rama’s life is that the human being has to contribute to expanding circles of consciousness. Expanding individual is a family, expanding family is a society, expanding society is a nation, and expanding nation is whole creation, ultimately it is the Chaitanya - consciousness that pervades everywhere. The life of a human being should always be in the interest of the larger identity. If there is a clash between smaller identity and the larger identity, the decision has to be in the interest of the larger identity. In such a decision the larger or higher interest of the small identity also gets taken care of. Thus harmony is achieved, the Ramarajya gets established. Study the life of Rama and one can know how to lead life so that one’s actions contribute for the creation of an ideal society. And if one happens to be in the position of power as Sri Rama was, then he can create the ideal society – a Ramarajya.

Ramarajya has become a watchword for an ideal society. If we read the descriptions of Ayodhya in the Ramayana, then even by our present modern standard, we see that it was an ideal society. For Mahatma Gandhi, freedom struggle was for establishing Ramarajya in Bharat. It means, he expected to have such values in the society that everyone would look at the larger interest of the society and sacrifice his personal happiness. Sadly, though a section of the leaders quote and swear by Gandhiji, they would scream if the word Ramarajya is mentioned or if Dharma is given prominence. It would be called communal. And so, to be politically correct, when we do not any more refer to Ramarajya, then understanding and working for Ramarajya becomes still a far cry.

There was harmony in Ramarajya because Sri Rama did not divide the society into various communities like Nishadas (tribals), Vanaraas or Rakshasas and set one community at the throat of the other. Even though distinct communities existed and even though some had harmed him, like the Rakshasas, he saw to it that all were united with each other in a higher vision of Dharma. Thus he hugs Guha as his own brother, he becomes friend of Sugreeva, and he gives refuge to Bibhishana and even promises him that he would not destroy the Rakshasas if they were not supporting Ravana. He even offers an opportunity for Ravana to set right the wrong. If only Sri Rama wanted, it would have been easier for him to take the help of Guha and fight with Bharat which Guha had offered to do. He could have set Vanaras against Rakshasas, but by accepting Bibhishana he impressed on the minds of the Vanaras that the fight was not with the Rakshasas as a community but with those who are Adharmik, who are breaking the norms of harmonious existence. The rulers and administrators in order to retain their power should not fragment the society but using their very power and their acceptance in the society should make the communities accept each other and thus bring cohesiveness. This is what Sri Rama did and so could develop an integrated and harmonious society. The celebration of Ramnavami is to take inspiration from Sri Rama’s life to work for establishing an ideal society, striving for a holistic living – Dharma, by surrendering the selfish interest of our smaller identity for the sake of the bigger identity. 
                                                                                                             Nivedita Raghunath Bhide                                                                                                                                Vice President

Friday 15 March 2024

Holika Dahan…: Yuva Bharati March 2024

 Holika Dahan…

The story of civilisations, around the world is replete with attempts to purify the individual’s character and as a result evolve as a society. The role of all the religions is to regulate, rectify and control the sub human tendencies, which Humans have by default. The role of culture is to change this default settings so that the future generations can step up further in their evolution. The growth of this process defines and distinguishes a civilisation from others. Festivals play an important role in imparting the corrections to the society. Every festival has an intrinsic social value apart from its outward religious hues. Our Holika Dahan is one such Festival. The purport of this Festival is that people participating in the Holika Dahan are pledging to “burn away” their bad habits, negative tendencies, greed, hatred towards fellow beings and renew their faith in Bhagawan Sri Vishnu. We, as Human beings have to constantly remind ourselves about the necessity to burn the evil and nurture the Good.

The ancient Pagan Religions also had similar festivals like celebration of Solstice in which they make Bonfires. Festivals like Ostara which symbolises Fertility, Rebirth and Renewal were celebrated by earlier Pagans are now being reinvented by Wiccans, the modern day Pagans too. This aspect is tied to the rejuvenation of the spirit and the celebration of life's beauty and vibrancy. It is a time for people to come together, forget and forgive past grievances, and reconcile with one another. It promotes harmony, unity, and the strengthening of bonds within communities. The tradition of applying colors to each other symbolizes this spirit of forgiveness and letting go of animosities. The spiritual reflections and the deeper spiritual connections are the essence of this wonderful festival of colours.



Tuesday 20 February 2024

Rammandir to Rashtramandir : Yuva Bharati February 2024

 Rammandir to Rashtramandir

We witnessed surcharged atmosphere of enthusiasm, devotion and sense of happiness for being part of the historical moment throughout Bharat regarding the consecration of Ram temple at Ayodhya. Many artists, writers, speakers and various people have dedicated and are still dedicating their tributes in various ways to welcome Shri Rama. Many singers were singing a song with their devotion and talent, 'Mere jhopadi ke bhag Aaj khula jayenge Ram aayenge -The fortune of my hut will frutify today, as Rama will come in it'. That song filled the joy in the hearts of many. What is the meaning of this song? This is not the meaning that only Rama is being enshrined in the temple of his birth place. There is a deeper, almost a mystic meaning to it. 

It is said about Shri Rama by his admirers as well as opponents that, 'Ramo Vigrahavan Dharmah - रामो विग्रहवान् धर्म:।' - If we want to see the form of Dharma, then it will be like Rama. That is, Shri Rama is the embodiment of Dharma. From life of Sri Rama we ​​can understand and learn how to follow Dharma. Dharma is not religion, in the sense of worshipping a specific form of God, in a specific prescribed way. But Dharma is a way of life based on oneness of existence and striving to realise that oneness. Thus for a Dharmik the basis of life is truth, purity, compassion for all and cheerful performance of duties towards family, society, nation and the whole existence. Swami Vivekananda used to say, 'Dharma is the life-center of India.' And the form of Dharma is Shri Ramchandra. Therefore, Shri Rama is the concretised form of life-center of India. 

About 500 years ago, invaders attacked Shri Ram Janmabhoomi temple and destroyed that temple. For 500 years, many have tried, fought to establish Shri Ramchandra in the temple at his birthplace. Many brave sacrificed everything they had, even their lives for it. They kept striving to overcome the pain and negativity that had come because of destruction of the temple, by facing the situation with courage, and used all their strength to change the situation. Those who were common people gradually became victims of this pain and hence became dejected and turned away from their duties, from uprightness in life. The third type of people, denied the very existence of not just the temple but even Sri Rama to forget that inner pain. These were three ways in which the people of India faced and endured this sorrow as Sri Rama belongs to all. 

But now, Shri Rama is again established in the temple at Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya. This has a deep, mystic and subtle meaning in the collective subconscious of the people of Bharat. The Pranapratishtha ceremony should not be considered as just one incident. There are certain mystic meanings beyond history, and logic. The song that was sung by so many since last month that, 'My hut would be very fortunate as Sri Rama will enter it today' that hut is not just any hut. That hut is our heart. The karmic poverty, negation, pain, avoiding duties, falsehood, lack of self discipline, hopelessness etc. that was there in our life due to being deprived of Sri Rama would vanish as Sri Rama would enter it.

Sri Rama is going to be established in our hearts also as the he is now in the temple at Ayodhya. The fate of this hut-our heart is changing and that is why just as Sri Rama is revered in the temple of Shri Ramjanmabhoomi, similarly every person of India would enshrine Sri Rama in his life too by practicing Dharma. Sri Rama will definitely be established in our hearts even if with only little effort we invoke Him with devotion and action. We all have to do that Pranapratishtha of Sri Rama in our hearts.
The enthusiasm, readiness to work, discipline and commitment that we see in the life of Shri Ramchandra will be reflected in our lives too. The earlier wrong-doings, transgressions, offences that we committed against our nation, Dharma, people for last few generations would be erased with this Pranapratishtha done by each one of us in our hearts. Sri Rama has come! Sri Rama would come in our hearts too. He belongs to all.

Deepotsav was celebrated on 22 January, as Diwali was celebrated when Shri Ramchandra returned to Ayodhya. Similarly, we will celebrate the festival of lights by removing the darkness of Tamas, the darkness of lust, the darkness of indiscipline, the darkness of laziness in our lives. If we welcome Shri Rama in our heart, if

we welcome him in our life and in our work, then our life will definitely become blessed and enlightened. This Ram-mandir will emerge as a Rashtra-mandir.

We will start our journey from Ram Mandir to Rashtra Mandir if with Pranpratistha in the temple we too continue the Pranapratishtha in our hearts. Shri Ramchandra, who lived gloriously his entire life with his utmost compassion for all and commitment to duty, became an embodiment of Dharma, in the same way we will also transform and elevate our lives. This song that we sang and are still singing, 'The fortune of my hut will frutify today, as Rama come', has this deeper meaning. Our heart will now give up pettyness, selfishness, and will become a grand place to enshrine the Divine in it i.e. it will encompass the whole society rooted in practice of Dharma. Bharat thus established in Dharma will guide and benefit the mankind.  

When we are enshrining Shri Ramchandra in our hearts, making our lives blessed, then the meaning of Dharma in our lives will not be limited only to worship, but will mean doing always that what sustains the society, to make it a caring society, a society which is based on oneness. Our nation with such elevated, caring, affluent and spritual society will guide the world to teach the deeper meaning of Dharma. If we strive like this to do Pranapratishtha of Sri Rama in our hearts, our life will become fortunate. When our life will be lived with evolved consciousness then definitely Bharat will also become a Jagat-Guru and she will teach the whole world the deeper meaning of Dharma by living it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Nivedita Raghunath Bhide
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Vice President

Saturday 20 January 2024

Sri Rama: The Soul of India : Yuva Bharati January 2024


Sri Rama: The Soul of India

The whole nation is waiting for the grand and great moment, of the fulfilling the desires of the crores of people since the last five hundred years for the opening of Sri Ramajanmabhoomi temple at Ayodhya on 22nd January. We publish an article that was written on the day of Shilanyas of this historical temple.


As on 5th August the whole country celebrates the Shilanyas of Sri Ram Mandir at Sri Ram Janma Bhoomi, crores of hearts would be overwhelmed, the eyes would be blurred with tears of happiness that the wait of almost 500 years is over, a silent prayer would be offered with gratitude for all those who died for the cause and deep satisfaction that we have lived to see this day, an inner feeling would be experienced that celebrations of Independence starts this year 10 days before the Independence Day. Three incidents float my memory.  


It was one week after 6th December 1992. The Sarvodaya leaders along with religious leaders of Kanyakumari organized a peace meeting at Gandhi Mandapam located at sea shore. Various heads of the religious, social, political and educational organizations were invited. Vivekananda Kendra elders attended it, with them I too attended. It was decided that some passages of some universal meaning would be read from Bible, Koran and Vedas. There would be few talks, appeal for peace etc. And then with silent prayers the meeting would be concluded.


The meeting proceeded as planned. As it was concluded and we were about to get up, a booming voice rang, ‘What is this? You are having a meeting in Gandhi Mandapam and concluding it without Ram Bhajan?’ The organizers got jittery, they turned and found an old man, coming towards the gathering from the door. “Who are you?’ asked the organizers apprehensively. ‘I am Ahamed (I hope I am remembering the name correctly) the watchman at the Gandhi Mandapam’. Saying so, before the organizers could object him, he started the Bhajan, ‘Raghupati Raghav Rajaram…’ All gathered, joined him.

It was not just singing Bhajan but what was suppressed all this time so to say spontaneously came out. Seeing that a person from Muslim community was leading the Ram Bhajan, the organizers though shocked by the turn of events a bit helplessly, let the people sing Bhajan.


Actually, whatever was going on till now was so superficial that there was heaviness in the atmosphere. But once the Bhajan started and as all enthusiastically joined in it, the air around became light and friendly. A common man in India whatever may be his religious affiliation adores Rama. Sri Rama has entered in the soul of India like no other historical personality of India.


When I was Principal of Vivekananda Kendra Vidyalaya, I had made it a point to take the moral science classes for all the sections. To save my time, I used to combine the sections of each class. The syllabus was made as to in which class what values and behavioural changes would be stressed through stories. The stories for each class were also decided. Whatever I wanted to tell the children would be told through the dialogues in the mouth of the personalities in that story. Thus, the stories would be very long. For example, for class III the Ramayana would go all through the year. As much as children loved listening to the stories, I loved narrating it to them. Sometimes while walking through the veranda, a child would tell me, ‘Didi, tomorrow Friday! Your moral science period on our class’, as if I needed a reminder! Or if a holiday comes on Wednesday the children having the moral science period on that day would come to me and complain, ‘Didi, why all holidays are coming this year on Wednesday only?’ As if not only time table but even the calendar was my creation!


Once, I went to class III for the moral science period. Before entering generally, their noise would reach me as more than 80 children of both the sections would be sitting in one class room. But that day there was no sound at all. I was bit surprised. As I entered the class and students greeted me with Namaste, I was stunned to see the table, chair and place around decorated with many flowers. More than 80 pairs of shining innocent eyes were looking at me expectantly for my response. Thinking they might have taken the flowers from the beach garden which was looked after tirelessly by Saraswatididi, the vanaprasthi Karyakarta and if so then later how I would have to listen to her outburst, I asked bit worried, ‘From where did you bring so many flowers?’ ‘From my home Didi.’ Replied all those who had brought it. ‘But why have you covered all this with flowers?’, I asked puzzled. ‘Ramarajyabhishekam! Didi today there will be coronation of Srirama, so celebration!’ I was overwhelmed. I turned my back on them as if I was seeing the flowers and controlled myself. As I was wearing a white colour saree, I started to remove the flowers from the chair. ‘No, Didi, that is like the Simhasanam – throne of Sri Rama. Please do not remove the flowers.’ I could not disregard the feelings of those tender hearts. Even today when I remember that incident, my heart fills with joy. Sri Rama moves hearts of such tiny tots also.


The third incident is just few years back. Though I had gone for Kendra work many times to Lucknow, I had not visited Ayodhya. I had not asked for that, may be deep down I was avoiding the pain to see Ramlala in a tattered tent. But as the work started in Gorakhpur, Ayodhya and other places, in my one pravas (organizational tour) the visit to each branch was planned. At Ayodhya, visit to the temple was also included in the itinerary.

Through many security gateways we had to pass. No bag or mobiles were allowed in the hand. At last we reached a place where we could enter the strong iron barricades to ultimately reach the temple. Due to the varying time at each security gate the Karyakartas accompanying me were behind and I was in the group of pilgrims who appeared to be from some interior villages of Tamilandu. It was very hot. After walking through many barricade lines at last we reached the last but two lines. A person near me started asking, ‘enna da Kovil enge irukkiradu? Oh.. where is the temple.?’ One Jawan standing little away from us spoke in Tamil loudly so as to attract our attention. ‘Keep looking right. Do not look here and there or you would miss the Darshan.’ There were tents for the Jawans to rest, drink water etc. Many Jawans of various armed forces were posted at various locations.

Because that Jawan had told, we did not miss the Darshan. The tent was discoloured, tattered. While walking through barricades if a person looks for 3-4 steps in other direction, he would miss the Darshan, so narrow was the opening and so inconspicuous was the tent to pay attention to it. As we moved further in the barricade towards exit, one old man in that group said, ‘The one who protects us all, he needs to be protected here…’ The other old person said in fatigued tone, ‘I hope in my life time, my Rama gets the temple at his birth place.’ The simple words but they represented the longing and waiting of so many hearts since 500 years; what tears I was trying to hold back started flowing.


Why does this Shilanyas of Sri Rama temple at Ramjanmabhoomi move us so much? Swami Vivekananda had said Dharma is the soul of India and Srirama is called as ‘Ramo Vigrahvan Dharma’. Sri Rama is Dharma incarnate. This Bhoomipoojan grips us so much because Sri Rama is deeply embedded in the inner being of this nation. Ve Sabke Ram hai.


Let us keeping aside what caste, creed, community, religion we belong, chant the name of Srirama, all the heaviness that our political or ideological affiliations bring, would be gone and we would experience the lightness as Ahamad made us feel that day.

Let us touch the child-like innocence in our heart and our heart would rejoice and celebrate 5th August, as my tiny-tots that day celebrated.


Feel the long wait in many old hearts of all our earlier generations in the past 500 years and we will be grateful that we are alive to cherish this great historical moment.