Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Ravana and his many heads

India slays the ten headed Ravana tomorrow, in the culmination of the annual recital of the story which has been told in the subcontinent for millennia. Tomorrow India and Hindus the world over celebrate 'Dussehra'

The story of victory of good over evil is the greatest story ever told in human history. Every culture has its own version of this story. The plot varies, the struggle of the protagonists varies, the strength and character of the evil varies but what is common amongst these stories  is the determination of the protagonist to achieve the eventual glorious victory over 'Evil'. This is a story of hope, a story of justice. It is also the most appealing story of all because fight against injustice comes instinctively to every human. A hero has to emerge, evil has to be slayed and justice has to be delivered.

The annual recital of this story is also a reminder to us that evil always resurfaces. It is ever present among us, and so should determination to slay it always exist. The slaying of Ravana may only be symbolic, but it is the most important symbolism of all Hindu religious symbols.  Because if religion is not about good then what is religion about, and if evil cannot be slayed then how can good survive? It has to be slayed every year and the slaying has to be celebrated every year. The continuum of evil will exist as long as humans exist, there is no escaping from it. Yet the determination of human society to fight it must not cease, for when it ceases, so will everything worth caring for.

On this day it cannot be escaped to draw a link between this millennia old story and the present human condition. Surely we have to be able to identify the Ravana and his many heads in our lives. Which is the greatest evil of them all that needs to be slayed?

For me the greatest evil of them all is 'Human Greed'. It has many heads and slaying it requires a determination and courage only the best amongst us can muster. Some may argue that greed has been the driving force for human progress. Isn't it true that without want for more we would not have created more? When the desire for better life ends so does better life.  But it is difficult to tell, where urge for progress ends and the evil of unhindered greed begins.

Ravana British MuseumAll the challenges that threaten our very existence on this planet today are man made. They are a result of our greed. In one form it shows up as the ever present evil of 'public corruption'. The stealing of common wealth by individuals entrusted to use that wealth justly for common good; that is the definition of public corruption, and the cause of it is greed. In other forms it shows up as the threat of environmental degradation, of extinction of life forms, of global warming, of threat of our own extinction in the long run. All are a result of human greed. The problem of cyclic repetition of economic crisis in human history, of famines, of human genocides, of ethnic strife, of economic crimes, of human suffering, of poverty and hunger all are a result of human greed. What could be a greater evil than human greed?

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