Where were we…
We left our story as Ram & Sita return victorious to Ayodhya, what my family would call “All shiny shiny”. A beautiful story of fortitude and strength, of overcoming external challenges while engaging the assistance of all those around you. As an adult, you sense there are parts missing. What happened to Sita in the 10 months she was held captive by Ravana?
The renditions I have read/heard re-told are very limited and includes an illustrated version of the Ramayana for children. I am not claiming to be an authority on anything. I grew up with the image of Ravana as a demon with many heads. Ugly, lascivious, cunning, mean, wealthy beyond measure. He had all the makings of a good villain. But what if he was also kind, endearing and thoughtful? He was well versed in the Vedic texts and arts, including the Karma -Sutra. For ten months he housed Sita in a beautiful garden home and wooed her. He gave her a year to come to him freely after which time he swore to kill her if she refused him. She had no way of knowing if she would ever be found. She had no way or possibility of escaping as the sea separated her from India. Sita stood alone.
Her commitment to herself was greater than any external entity. That to me is what makes her extraordinary.
Diwali’s relevance today
I grew up with a limited understanding of the Ramayana, especially the end. Diwali was the focal point. I think it left me with a craving for this perfect marriage, a perfect hero who would rescue me from all the World’s demons. I subconsciously sort this Ram of the epic in all the men I know, my Dad, brother, friends, husband, father-in-law, brothers-in-law.
Stories & their influence
But how different my expectation of them would have been if I also knew the end of the Ramayana? How different my expectations of myself if I knew Sita as a heroine, resigned to her fate, rather than a victim hoping to be rescued by another. What if the end was given as much importance as Diwali rather than robbing Valmiki’s ancient poem of its strength. Have we fed ourselves on too much sweetness?
Sweet Forbidden Rice Recipe
My mum made sweet rice and sour rice on Diwali morning. Perhaps she intuitively knew there needed to be a balance. I share my recipe here. It’s a re-take of the traditional recipe reduced to 3 ingredients, for those of us who have been fed on a diet of too much sweet.
1 cup of black rice, rinsed 3 times
2 cups of milk
Sugar to taste
Method: Soak the rice in milk for 2 hours, then boil on a low heat for an hour, topping up so as not to cook dry. Add 3 tablespoons of a sugar or a sweetener of your choice. Remove from heat and leave to continue cooking in its own heat. You could use a Wonderbag or wrap the pot in a kitchen towel and place in a larger pot. Leave for a few hours until milk is mostly absorbed.
Tips: Resist the urge to enhance the flavour with anything and you will be rewarded with the fragrant taste and flavour of black rice. It needs nothing more.
6 thoughts on “Diwali: The Back Story”
What version of the story do you recommend I read? There must be something online. Hopefully it’s not as long as War and Peace!
I have a copy I can pass on to you Johan.
Now you’ve made me curious about how the story ends. It reminds me of the Greek myth about Pluto’s abduction of Persephone and fleeing with her to the underworld, where she has to spend six months of the year. I like your interpretation of Sita as someone on a hero’s journey whose commitment to herself superceded her yearning for a man to rescue her. In a sense it mirrors the quest we are all on – to access the unconscious half in ourselves.
I thought of Persephone and also of Bluebeard. And if I am to learn anything of this story, it points to not expecting much of men and I dearly hope I am wrong and have badly misunderstood.
I feel there is a layer past the ‘shiny shiny’, that calls on us to recognise the difference between duty and servitude. Performing your duty should not result in your misuse, or in using your power to misuse, or to naively believe that doing your duty protects you somehow. Maybe I’m too young and unwise.
I also feel that we glorify the victory of Ram’s gathering the forces and overthrowing Ravana, but don’t acknowledge that he severely punishes Sita for the wrongs of Ravana, whom he grants an abode in heaven, while Sita… So many relevant themes for today about shame and scapegoating, pride and framing and all in places we don’t expect to find it.
So I’m stretching to find the part you speak of and if I have to consider Ram, Sita & Ravana as parts of me. And at the moment it echoes another message I’ve heard and that is not to expect a happy ending here in this life. It doesn’t end. Hope I haven’t ruined the end for you.
I really enjoyed this thought-provoking post.
Thanks for highlighting the untold parts of the story of Ram and Sita. I guess that when one is told that someone is good or bad, we seldom stop to question whether the same person could also have the opposite qualities. For example, no one ever questioned whether Nelson Mandela had any qualities that would tarnish his good image, but being human, I’m sure he did.
My take is that while Sita was a highly evolved Soul she was tempted by a golden deer. At the same time, Ravana, a supposed demon, had the ability to be caring and looked after Sita. In my mind, this certainy brings out the fact that good and bad exist in each one of us.
I’ve always been led to believe that our holy scriptures should not be questioned. However, that is no reason not to rethink my belief. I guess one can make up several “what if” scenarios about Ram, Sita and Ravana. Valmiki may have had good reason to carve out his story in this way. Who knows?
Then there’s the elements of interpretation, deletion and distortion that come into play. Those of us who read or listen to the story will receive it with our own frames of reference. Tehse frames are formed by our experiences, current state of mind, needs and so on. And of course, the version of the story we get many generations down the line is quite different from the original.
I think this is a good point of departure for a discussion around the different parts that make up the whole with regard to our personalities, identity and what others perceive us to be. I must add though that the same can be doen with any other story portraying men as heroes and women as victims. So, this should not be viewed as a flaw of the story of Ram and Sita alone.
Looking forward to reading others’ comments and your next post.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and share your opinion.
Diwali is such a rich place for reflection and inner work and fun! If we could just reflect on the whole of the Ramayana and not just the parts that make us feel good.
I’m asking for us to make it conscious again.
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