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Mythical Greatness

Our school's annual day (which, ironically enough, only occurs once every three years) is this evening. It's a play about the Mahabharata, which is a strange choice of play, because the whole idea of the annual day (at least, according to my school) is to get each and every kid to play some part in it, no matter how menial said part may be. The Mahabharata doesn't have a lot of female roles, and that's led my school to come up with several extra roles just so that everyone can have a part in the play. They have, for instance, "human props" who don't really seem to have an awful lot to do. This post, however, is not about the many similar little technical hiccups in my annual day - though no doubt that would fill an entire blog post all on its own. No, this post is about the Ramayana and the Mahabharata and why I prefer one over the other.

I'll be honest with you: I've always preferred the Mahabharata. I never was a big fan of Rama, because I always saw him as being a hypocritical, pompous idiot (I hear the gasps from all you religious folk, but just give me a second to explain myself, OK? Jeez...). The Mahabharata always struck me as a far more human, realistic story. The Pandavas, while great people, have flaws, and they admit to possessing flaws. Rama was never given to accepting that he, too, was only human. For example, here's a view of what Rama did, partially from a modern viewpoint and partially from the point of his own Dharma.

The first time Rama meets Sugreeva, he asks him to help him kill Vaali. How does Rama do it? With an arrow from behind, that's how. Dharma is supposed to state quite clearly that "Thou Shalt Not Killest A Manneth From Behindeth" or whatever, but apparently Rama is allowed to bend the laws of Dharma at will. Later, after Rama beats the bad guy and gets the girl and brings her home - after, of course, having made her walk through fire in order to prove her purity - he sends her to the forest on the advice of some random jumped-up washerman. He doesn't, do note, tell her that he's sending her to the forest. He doesn't even take her to the forest himself. No, he sends his brother to do it, because he "loves her too much and can't bear to send her away" or whatever. Personally, if I loved someone that much I wouldn't be sending them away in the first place. Later, he sends a horse around his kingdom and says that anyone who stops the horse may fight him for his kingdom. The horse is stopped by his two sons, whose existence he had no clue about (Man, he ought to join the NBA or something!) who have become skilled warriors. Rama is then crushingly defeated. However, not wanting to lose his kingdom, he went out and made amends with his wife. Having finally acquired some sense and realizing just how much of a jerk Rama was, she returned to her mother's place, giving us India's (possibly) earliest recorded separated marriage. This is the man who we look up to as the "Mariada Purushottaman".

The Mahabharata characters aren't overly stringent about Dharma either - neither of the sides really follow the rules of Dharma during the war - but the thing is, they aren't said to have. It's very clearly recorded that the Pandavas and the Kauravas broke the rules of Dharma. According to the stories, the Kauravas made it to heaven before the Pandavas, who had to serve a short spell in the underworld to pay for their sins on the battlefield. 3000 years (maybe more) after this story was written, I can relate to the Mahabharata far better than to the Ramayana.


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