Casteism in Ramayana

Following article is from
Essay series by Sri.Bannanje Govindacharya
This part of the story is from Uttarakanda. Hence not under the preview of Valmiki Ramayana. The only reason this has been added here is that blogger is acquiescent with this form of discussion and logic.
A lot of intellectuals are mad at Valmiki. This is their complaint: A story where a Brahmin boy is saved by killing a shudra doing penance!? It is caste-ism. ………..
The elite respond: Aha! If that is the case, then Rama is the culprit. To turn a person, who upholds caste-ism, into a Hero is also Valmiki’ s fault.
Some folks (…)It cannot be Valmiki’ s writings; (…)They can neither like nor dislike the story(…)
If we want to understand a work, we should immerse ourselves in the beliefs of the time and the author of the work. On the contrary, we cannot heap our beliefs on the author!
(…)So, then, what is the poet’s belief here? What is the background?
To get to this, we need to understand one basic fact. Doing penance is not anything great, in itself. The goal of penance is what is important.
One can do penance for the good of the world: that is satvik. On the other hand, one can do it for the well being of the self: that is rajasik. Worst is when the penance is aimed at the destruction of the world. Now, that is definitely tamasik.
A lot of sages have performed penance; so have the likes of Ravana and Hiranyakashipu. The sages got salvation. Ravana and others like him get destroyed. Both are fruits of penance. A curse can become a boon. And, a boon can become a curse.
Who did it is not the issue. What they did is not important. Why they did it alone is the key issue: the differentiator between right and wrong.
So, let us forget about who Shambuka was, just for a moment. Why did he do penance? ….. As the ancient teachers say, and as Valmiki briefly points out, here was his goal: to conquer the world of the Devas. ….. Even beyond Indra. ……. He wanted to become Shiva himself. (……) Now that is a height worth aspiring for, (..)
So, that was Shambuka’s desire. Anyone who approves of such a penance should be admitted to a mental hospital!
(…) That was satvik penance. (..) Now, Shambuka’s is not good for the world. The punishment for this has to be greater. Death alone is the right punishment.
Even Ravana had similar desires. (……)Now, this fellow has worse desires. Rama would have made a grave mistake if he killed Ravana, but left Shambuka alone.
There is another point to be made here. Ravana was a Brahmin(…).But, Rama killed him.
A Brahmin who makes a mistake has to be punished. A shudra, if he does not make a mistake, should not be punished. That is Valmiki’s belief; that is Rama’s belief. It would bring discredit to the spirit of the source, if we interject caste-ism into the mix.
The seeds for this topic were sown at the start of the Ramayana itself. (….)Dasaratha(…..)He thought it was an elephant drinking water. But, the arrow actually hit a young mendicant. (…) the youth says: “Oh King! I am not a brahmin. I am a shudra mendicant. My father is a vyshya and my mother is a shudra. First, go and take care of them.”
So, Ramayana starts with a curse of a shudra mendicant. (….) So, we can conclude one thing: It is true that Shambuka was a shudra. But, that is not the reason Rama killed him. It was Shambuka’s base mentality.
Translated to English by P. R. Mukund
So, in the midst of confusion, Shambuka too plays a part in the portrayal of the greatness of Rama’s character.

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