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Ram – The Divinity Within


By Bijoya Sawian

The auspicious and much awaited event at Ayodhya is over. The Ram Mandir is exquisite, the image of Lord Ram is beautiful. May his teachings be reaffirmed and exemplified in our daily lives. We have to go beyond the pomp and glory of the occasion and keep in mind his philosophy, the ideals and teachings. If we do, then this historic event would be worth it. If we live each day doing good, speaking good, thinking good then, indeed, we can say Lord Ram has truly returned.

This is how I look at it and not, as most think, an attempted saffronisation of our country. India is a secular country and may that aspect be intact eternally. Its greatness and beauty lie in its immense diversity. It is meant to be celebrated and not cause conflict and divisiveness.

Lord Ram is the embodiment of all the virtues and ideals that we should know and emulate in our earthly existence. The time has come to remind humankind that the divine qualities exist within all of us if only we tap and nurture them. The fact that society has plummeted to such a level is because we are living an excessively superficial life with all the wrong values. We are neglecting our inner journey.

My maternal family who still practice the indigenous faith, Ñiam Khasi, was represented in Ayodhya by Hammarsing, my brother’s son.

The religion is similar to Sanathan Dharma as, we too believe in an imageless, formless Divinity, U Blei, who is Omnipresent, Omniscient and Omnipotent and pervades the entire universe. The concept of the ‘god within’ – Tip Briew Tip Blei, is an integral part of Ñiam Khasi. Every home is a temple and every piece of the earth is sacred.

Hinduism is a way of life. You do not need to always go and worship in a temple. You can pray at home and, better still, you simply live a life of righteousness and godliness. That is a form of worship unmatched by any other.

At this juncture I remember our friend, the much loved and highly respected (L) Surjit K Das who was the DM then, four decades ago. It was during my first few years in Dehradun and my Hindi was just about passable. Surjit invited my husband and I to a talk by Swami Ram. It was the first lecture I attended because Surjit had assured me that it would be in English. The lecture was held in Hotel Madhuban. In fact, in the very room where the Valley of Words International Literature Festival had a memorial session for Surjit on 16 December, 2023.

Swami Ram spoke eloquently and simply and his words made a deep impression on me. He talked about, among many other topics, discipline and the importance of performing puja every day, preferably in the morning. When the question answer segment came, Surjit told Swamiji that in his line of work there were days when he could barely finish his breakfast and he had to rush off urgently to answer the call of duty, therefore, it was seldom possible to perform any ritual. To this, Swamiji replied that if he performed his duties to the best of his ability that was the best puja he could ever perform so he should not worry about any other ritual. Adhering to one’s dharma is the pathway to enlightenment.

This is the wisdom that is the underlying narrative of Hinduism. In school, we instruct the children not to litter because it is disrespectful to Nature which is inextricably linked to our existence. Each time we destroy anything in Nature we destroy part of us, we disrespect God. This is one of the many aspects of religion which we ignore either out of ignorance or callousness. In Meghalaya we have Sacred Forests outside all the villages from time immemorial where no tree is cut, no twig removed. This was and is in order to ensure fresh drinking water and to attract rain. Long long ago, when hunting was a sport, before venturing into the jungle for a hunting trip, a puja was performed and in the prayer the priest invoked Mother Earth, Mei Ramew, to bless the hunt because the huntsmen have come not to ravage and destroy but in a sporting spirit of respect and joy. They shoot just enough for the pot. Hunting and fishing are traditionally forbidden during the breeding season. (Thankfully, it is totally banned now).

All faiths teach the same values but in different ways and words. We must remember that and not live in delusion that one religion is better than another. To profess that ‘my religion is the best’ is the most irreligious statement one could make.

The debate rages on about Ram testing Sita. This, too, has something to teach. If one is in a position of responsibility and authority one must adhere to the rules and one’s dharma. Personal emotions and attachments come second. Very difficult to accept this but when one thinks calmly and deeply it makes sense, it is the truth. Gandhiji’s answer to a son who felt neglected was that he was first the Father of the Nation and then his father.

I hope 22 January, 2024, will usher in peace and harmony and development and progress in all aspects of our lives based on integrity and compassion. A way of life with respect for all God’s creations animate and inanimate, all mankind irrespective of caste, creed, colour and class.

(Bijoya Sawian is a translator and writer who lives in Shillong and Dehradun. She studied at Seng Khasi High School and Loreto Convent in Shillong, and did her Masters in English at Miranda House, Delhi, after graduating in English Literature from Lady Shri Ram College. Her works essentially deal with the life and culture of the Khasi community of North East India. The Teachings of Elders, Khasi Myths, Legends and Folktales and About One God are three of several books that she has translated from Khasi into English. Several institutes of repute, including the Sahitya Akademi and the Institute of Folklore Studies, Bhopal, have published her short stories and critical essays. Her original works in English include Shadow Men and Two Stories published by Speaking Tiger Books).