‘Ram, a bad husband; Lakshman, a worse brother’

The Ramayana, reinterpreted by the renowned criminal lawyer Ram Jethmalani, in The Hindu:

Ram was a bad husband. I don’t like him at all. Just because some fisherman said something, he sent that poor woman [Sita] to exile.

Lakshman was even worse.

“When Sita was abducted, Ram asked him to go and find her as she was abducted during his watch. Lakshman simply excused himself saying she was his sister-in-law and he never looked at her face, so he wouldn’t be able to identify her.”

Image: courtesy India Forums

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CHURUMURI POLL: Lord Rama, man or myth?

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30 Responses to “‘Ram, a bad husband; Lakshman, a worse brother’”

  1. Guru Says:

    “Ram-Lakshman” Bulb Koodi?
    Hageenu Illa; “Sonia-Laxman” bulb idde.

    Howdha?
    Laxman : Bad Brother is right to Sonia.

  2. Chidu22 Says:

    No surprise in that? Ramayana is an example of heights of chivalry. At best it is a fantasy story with some morals for the common man and lot of unnecessary chivalry and misplaced magnanimity.

  3. Suresh Panje, New Delhi Says:

    Ram Jethmalani is right. Even Bharat was an uncaring brother as evident from snatching away the Khadav (wooden footwear) of Rama as he set out for his 14-year exile. It is said that Ravana was truly an enlightened scholar whereas Hindus regard Rama as God, perhaps in tune with the notion of being Vishnu’s Avataar (incarnation). And it was not the fisherman but a washerman (dhobi) whose comments prompted Rama to send away Sita for another innings of exile.

  4. Deepak Says:

    Jethmalani has decided to quit BJP. So he is provoking them to throw him out, thats it – nothing to do with Rama or Sita!!

  5. Praveen Kodabagi Says:

    I would go one step further and say that the whole of Ramayana teaches nothing but immorality, unethical practices, patriarchy at its worst. There is vrtually nothing we can learn from this holy text or epic. It just depicts a very low standard of culture and values so degraded as to send a pregnant lady to a forest, as to cut a nose of shurphanakha so on and so forth. There is no such thing as gallantry or chivalry in ramayana, Ramayana is Indian hypocrisy at its best…….

  6. harkol Says:

    Wonder why there is such a huge discussion on what ‘Ram’ Jethmalani has said!

    By modern view point, Ram indeed was a cruel husband. Laxman abandoned his wife to serve his brother, so he is a cruel husband too.

    But, the problem is Ramayana is a few thousand years ago. And the social customs of those days are not the same now.

    Let us consider this. Slavery (Dasa/Dasyu), Sati etc. were accepted practices hundreds of years ago. Today it is unthinkable. If one were a slave owner some 500 years back, you don’t call him a bad person – because it was the accepted practice then.

    For example, If we have a servant at home, it is equivalent of modern day slavery. 7 day work, pay enough for bare subsistence and being made to use ‘servant toilet’ etc. This is an accepted practice in most affluent homes across India (Jethmalani won’t be an exception).

    A few hundred years from now, anyone who had such servant will be called a ‘bad person’.

    So, it is stupid to compare todays mores with a mythological references. And to get worked up about it is even more stupid.

  7. vaidya Says:

    Lol…Can’t believe no channel has hit upon the idea of getting Jethmalani and Katju together for a chat show. Their ‘bright ideas’ will generate a lot of TRPs for sure.

  8. Nastika Says:

    This is mythology and if all the characters behave rationally, then there will be no story or that story won’t be interesting.

    Kudos to Valmiki for scripting a timeless classic.

    Kudos again to Ram Jethmalani for dissecting the character, rather than just accepting whatever Rama does, just because he is the protagonist.

    ~*~

    @Suresh Panje, New Delhi:
    There is no copyright on Ramayana. If you have the literary skills, you can make any character as central and tell the story from their angle.
    So somebody has told the story from Ravana’s angle. That doesn’t make Ravana great.

    ~*~

  9. the colonel Says:

    Suresh Panje: your comment is based on the ramayana you read, which is different than what RJ reads.

    RJ has not said anything wrong.

    Rama or Ram is revered from ancient times all over the world, because he was human and like all humans he too made mistakes.

    this human quality is what makes Ram great.

    i stand by rj. he is right.

  10. asha Says:

    Do you guys know Ram had 2 wives…no not Sri Ram..Ram Jethmalani…he is the best person to talk about Sri Ram

  11. VEDANTHA DESHIKACHAR Says:

    How bizzaire. Is he not Ram “Jhootmalani”, defending hardcore criminals by saying he is professional

  12. Deepak Says:

    @Praveen Kodabagi
    “Indian hypocrisy at its best” WTF you mean – are you not an Indian? Or are you sitting in the US?

    It is people like you who have no idea about India that bring a bad name to this country. It is these kind of thoughts that ruin communal harmony and it is jokers like you who are a blot on the name of this peaceful country!!

  13. raghukandkur Says:

    Churmuri @ it’s best. They ignored conveniently the Girish Karnad’s Fiasco against Sir Naipaul and they were to attack on Ram Jehmalani’s rather right remarks on Lord Rama

  14. Koti Sreekrishna Says:

    I only recall reading in Valmiki Ramayana that Lakshmana failed to identify Sita’s ornaments, other than her toe rings, because he was prostrating to her everyday; whereas the ornaments she wore on her upper parts (neck, face..), he can not, because he did not take a good look out of respect (elder brother’s wife is considered mother, which mother fuckers may not understand!). But I am sure Jethmalani would remember color of Kareena Kapoor’s panties in film Ashoka! I do! Also, Malani, don’t forget Sita insulted Lakshmana by saying Lakshmana was following them as he was after her body and wished Rama to die in his deer hunt!Sita was also numerously cursing Dasharatha for his infatuation with Kaikeyi. What shitty lawyer is this Jethmalani who does not look into whole document! Doesn’t this attorney smart enough to think that Rama’s absurdity of abandoning pregnant Sita on some clumsy grounds (ill reputation) is added just to hyphe the story? Who in the hell will read Uttarakanda without that! Even other wise, my daughter said that Ramayana was meant for 5 yr olds(that was in 1990s!). This old hag has probably not read Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell!

  15. thebigthinkg Says:

    Applying rules/laws of today to yesterday is not right. Even then I think Ram has a lot to teach us, if we know what to learn..
    http://www.thebigthinkg.com/2011/12/divinity-defined-ram-and-hanuman.html

  16. Bk chowla Says:

    It is a silly one and doesn’t need discussion

  17. Emptymind Says:

    No problem with Rama accepting as GOD. But WTF problem with crew members of those tele-serials right from Doordarshan’s “ Ramayana” to Udaya TV’s “Seethe” and even recent “Devon ka dev Mahadev “ in Life’s OK depicting all asuras, demons, rakshasas and ugliness as Black colored mostly south Indian and all devathas as caucasoid race. This is epitome of superstition and racism. I wonder why nobody filed litigation case in court against these racist crews. I never saw such kind of racism at least in Teleserials of Jesus Christ where they put cartoon in the place of satan.

    I urge all natives of India to boycott these racist teleserials. You want to show bhakti to Lord Rama and Seetha maathe please read Tulasidas“Ramacharithmanas” or Kuvempu’s Shri Ramayanadarshanam”

  18. Emptymind Says:

    No problem with Rama accepting as GOD. But WTF problem with crew members of those tele-serials right from Doordarshan to Udaya TV’ and even recent Life’s OK depicting all asuras, demons, rakshasas and ugliness as Black colored mostly south Indian and all devathas as caucasoid race. This is epitome of superstition and racism. I wonder why nobody filed litigation case in court against these racist crews. I never saw such kind of racism at least in Teleserials of Jesus Christ where they put cartoon in the place of Satan.

    I urge all crew members to rectifies their attitude in displaying the characters in future.
    It is more devotional to see TulasiDas or Kuvempu or Kabir’s Rama than original Brahmanical one.

  19. babuds Says:

    Mr. RJ. In Ramayana Rama;s portrayal is more of a model king than that of a model husband.

  20. Shridharaswamy Says:

    @EmptyMind:

    Dont worry, I am dark, and South Indian; ” I am known as the GOD to all GODs”. I am also known as DEATH.

  21. Nastika Says:

    @babuds,
    Basically you mean a model king cannot be a good husband?

    ~*~

  22. Avi Says:

    RJ said so…so what!.
    If he really feels so, he should change ‘Ram’ in his name. Probabaly to something like ‘naanu’ (as in Upendra’s movie).
    It just ‘aravataralli aralu maralu’ phenomenon. Just ignore him. sometimes I feel highest form of intelligence borders with madness with a thin threshold.

    He said something and you (churumuri) asked people to discuss. It’s better you put your fav. secularist’s Girish Karnad’s latest adventures to discuss.

  23. Praveen Kodabagi Says:

    Deepak

    Sir – I am an Indian, I am from a village and educated in my vernacular language. So, I am pretty much an Indian, probably more than you. Villages are the best places to observe real India, geographically, politically, economically., Historically etc. Hence When I say Ramayana is Indian Hypocrisy at its best I am not questioning or separating myself from the critique that i am putting up. Hence I thought it was implied that myself I am part of the critique though not involved but present in observation. I have an idea of India and you have yours. Who decides who brings a bad name to our country? Who decides who are tho jokers ? I will say you are the Joker. Are you a Joker? Are You WTF ? Please Think.

    Some of the best developments in today’s world happen not because we provide solutions and glorify ourselves like you are doing but on the contrary it is because we put up a critique of the very structures that we live in. Hence giving way to hundreds of people to think over it.

    In this sense I want my country to live in peace, harmony etc and not just accept the social realities and say all kind of rubbish that India is a developing country, Diverse, rich, harmony etc when I am aware that people i front of me are fighting for all the nonsense issues such as Caste, Religion, Gender, Class, Money. In that sense you exactly become what you have written. In fact what you have written further strengthens my own argument.

    Are we even aware that the language that you have used against me is unknown to India ( Only using your own preconceived notion of what India is ). We sit in India we talk the language of United States. What are we ? It is time to question ourselves.

  24. Deepak Says:

    @Praveen – Your language clearly disproves the lie that you are educated in vernacular and stay in a village. It is apparent that you are somewhere in the US and look down arrogantly at Indian cultures and traditions and take great pleasure in criticising Indian Gods and religion.

    You say you want your country to live in peace and harmony. I suppose that will happen by abusing Hindu Gods and scriptures. If you really believe in that, I can only say all the best!!!

  25. Koti Sreekrishna Says:

    Who says Girish Karnard is a secularist? Our public figures are either pseudo-secularists or rabid Hindutva folks.

  26. Praveen Kodabagi Says:

    Ramayana or Sitayana

    I am born brought up hearing the stories of RAM. His adventures in the forest, The difficulties he had to face, The sacrifice made by Sita and Lakshmana. These are the stories which have been told generation after generation and we are accustomed to these stories. Hence any trend of questioning those stories certaily is bound get criticisms because these stories have acted as the Epics, Good over evil etc by the institution of State itself.

    Hence there is a need to question these age old stories. One of the ways people tend to look at Ramayana is by glorifying him. people tend to associate Ramayana with only Ram. There is no doubt Ram was central figure in Ramayana but we should move away from seeing Ramayana through Ram and we should for instance bring Sita or Tataka to the centre of Ramayana and approach the epic from their perspective. It is here that we are bound to see the problems with the stories of Ramayana. From the perspective of Sita we see that the situation, society was very patriarchal. On the one hand we see that Rama is being glorified for being a one woman man. Why is it that we have to glorify that? what is so unique about Rama being a one woman man? Does this mean that society was structured in polygyny? was it practiced? certainly Rama was the only one who comes out victorious?

    The figure of Rama for an outsider is very problematic in the sense that it showed his cruel nature when he sent his wife for Vanavaasa because the woman has already gone through her share of difficulties even though it was not mandatory for her to go with her husband. She was pregnant and she was sent. This for me becomes very cruel. I would have glorified Rama too if he had showed the courage of going against the moral code of conduct of his time and stood by his wife in times of distress.

    Tataka was one more figure through which we can observe Ramayana. Tataka was a beautiful who was oppossed to Violence. she was the ruler of malada and Karusha. when the sages were offering sacrifices in their yajnas she was fiercely oppossed to it. the rishis got very upset and angry and hence Rama was brought in to curb the menace of the “RAKSHASI” They got her killed and occupied her territory. The story is not this simple as we are told but she was killed by unethical means. It was Vishwamitra who brought Rama to kill Tataka. she was killed by unfair means. Rama caught her from behind without her notice and killed her. She was not given a chance to fight or to protect herself ( the same he did with Vaali ). The storu does not end here. she was given a very humiliating death. Her nose was cut off. she was made ugly. Her ears were cut off. She was killed in a very cruel manner. What is the reason for her killing BECAUSE SHE WAS AGAINST VIOLENCE.

    The point is such type punishments, cruel thinking, nature of the punishment, etc happened in the time of Ramayana goes against the contradictory nature of Rama and Ramayana. There is a need to reconstruct Ramayan. This time not with Rama as the central figure but with Sita or with Tataka as the central figures making Ramayana as Sitayana or Tatakayana!

    ( Deepak please read it, I dedicate this to you )

  27. Deepak Says:

    @Praveen Thanks for the dedication and for sharing your views.

    It is one thing to ‘question’ and another thing to abuse the Gods and scriptures that people revere. Everyone has a right to question, but the language you use doesn’t looks like questioning, it looks clearly like an insult. Supposing I insult your parents or any persons or ideals dear to you, how will you feel? Similarly, people would be angry if someone insults their beliefs.

    And coming to the points raised by you:

    1) Look, if Valmiki wrote the Ramayana only to sing paeans to Rama he would have hidden the blemishes. But he doesn’t, everything is spelt out clearly. Ramayana tells us about society in those days and it is very very clear that society was patriarchal. BTW : Has it changed now? Don’t we have men now who are 100 times worse than of those days? Isn’t it relevant to question this, than question Rama?

    2) The very fact that you use the word polygyny instead of polygamy raises a doubt about your intention to insult than question. Do you have any illustrations to show that people indulged in rampant sexual orgies? Polygamy was prevalent as seen in Dasharatha’s case. In such a situation, Rama being a one-woman man was definitely something worth talking about. BTW : In today’s world, how many men cheat on women? Shouldn’t you question that?

    3) And regarding Sita’s expulsion because of washerman’s comment, it is very clear in every version that Rama did it not because he was a sadist!! He did it because he had to show the world that there could not be one standard for King and one for common man. If you have studied Uttarrama charita of Bhavabhuti, it depicts the suffering of Rama when separated from his beloved wife. And mind you Rama is punished for this act as he is separated from his sons and he loses his wife forever as she leaves him and returns to her mother Bhoomidevi. This shows that Sita, a woman, had the strength to tell her Lord Rama that he was wrong and his choosing country over wife would make him lose her forever.

    4) Now there are many such stories of Taataka, Shambuka, etc. where it seems superficially that Rama cheated and killed using unfair means. But in each of these cases, the story is clear that these rakshasas were actually humans who had been cursed and when Rama killed them, they were freed of their past sins and liberated. So it was ordained that Rama should kill them to liberate them. Also, the story has it clearly that Rama refused to kill Taataka, but he was ordered by his guru for the simple reason that she was evil in this present form and had to be destroyed. This also illustrates the point that the King should respect and follow the orders of his guru. Same time it illustrates that he did not follow blindly, he did after Vishwamitra convinced him. Your point about Tataka being opposed to violence is not the correct story, maybe you have the wrong story.

    5) And you can construct stories as you want, no one has the right to stop it. Call it Sitayana or Ravanayana as you please. In fact, Ravana centric versions of Ramayana are available.

    So friend, my point is – question what you want, reconstruct what you want, no one has the right to question you. But don’t come to conclusions that everything is immoral. You enjoy freedom of speech, but you don’t have the right to insult others beliefs.

    I hope you have understand why I reacted in such a manner to your post. I wanted you to feel the heat and understand how easy it is to hurt someone. I had used some very cheap terms for which I feel bad, but I was provoked to do so. You are obviously a learned man with a penchant for philosophy and it is a pleasure to debate with you (as long as debate doesn’t degenerate to insults). I apologise for using such language earlier.

  28. asha Says:

    Praveen Kodabagi,

    You are getting mixed up between Tataka and shoorpanakhi…please read ramayana again before giving the perspective of sita, tataka etc. For your information Annadurai has already done a different perspetive on Ramayana as seen from Ravana’s perspective. The book is called Keemayana. Ravana is the hero and Rama is the vaillain of this story.

  29. Sanjeeva Says:

    Jethmalani is a renowned lawyer. It does not mean that he is an expert in every subject. If he said something, it is his personal opinion and does not need angry or supportive reactions. Mythological figures and Hindu religion have been criticised, condemned commented upon, depicted differently for thousands of years by ‘intellectuals’, ‘experts’, ‘authorities on the subject’, ‘reformers’, ‘historians’ and what not. Yet crores of people continue to follow certain path and worship their own gods. Let it be so. Why make it a big debate.

  30. Praveen Kodabagi Says:

    Deepak, You are welcome first of al
    Your response is forcing me to clarify certain things, I will begin from the first paragraph, I have not insulted anyone or any community, belief etc.i do not intend to do it. The point about insult is rather absurd because as i said i am very careful with my line of thought and with my choice of words. I dont know what language you are talking about? I simply dont know. ( I strongly think you should not tell or suggest anyone what langauge they should use. )

    Briefly

    Your piece honestly is not making any sense to me because I think it has ceased to be a debate on Ramayana and its present conceptions, and taking a very subjective and very personal tone. Don’t take it personally and dont get personal which is even more important.

    Your justifications of the acts of holy king Rama are absolutely bewildering and need I mention dichotomous and ambiguous.

    Since you are so rigid that I question the present problems facing the nation.the problems such as patriarchy? cheating on men? etc.You seem to have drawn interesting analogy ( or rather Stupid nonsense analogy) that instead of questioning Rama we should question the present hypocrites. This was an interesting point but you seem to reverse History! You seem to be looking or glorifying Rama through the present problems the country is facing. ( you are sure going to be blessed by the holy king Rama)

    My point regarding Tataka oppossed to violence or rather to use the correct terminology Sacrifices in the yajnas by the rishis in her land is correct. In any case the point is not whether she was violent, against violence. The important point is barbaric punishment was present and in fact was delivered by the King himself. How absurdly you justify the acts of a King. Rama was known for all of his valour, sympathy, Welfare, goodness etc. The point is he can heap such a violence or at least think about it shows substantially that there was lot of discrimination during the time of Ramayana. Your whole point that Rama had to listen to his Guru and he was the one who convinced him and even more funnier the people who were killed by rama the rakshasis such as tat aka etc were bound to killed by him because they were blessed? regenerated? etc knows no bound of absurdity. Once a deed is done it is done. To give you a more apt example of take the example of Vaali. ( I wonder what explanation you will come up with now, and frankly i am scared)

    One of the ways in which we think of our future is future should be this…. future should be that etc.We rarely think of future in terms of what it should be not! in you style of writing and in your pattern of justifications, the style content etc I found that you exactly reverse my above point and argument.

    Iam part of the system that Ramayana supposedly took place, My grand parents etc used to tell me the stories of Rama. I am born and brought up watching the serials of Ramayana and Mahabharat etc ( Remeber the DD channel sunday episodes in the 90’s) I Know what Ramayana means to my grandparents, I know what Mahabharata means to them and I will not hurt them by using some nonsense language baceause i Know that they worship Rama.

    Asha
    thanks for the suggestion and may i suggest some articles to you myself.In fact i will only suggest one article Read A K Ramanujan’s Three Hundred Ramayanas which was banned from Delhi University. ( This is a good start for you)

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