Some of you may wonder why I decided to change the name of the book from Raavan – Orphan of Aryavarta to Raavan – Enemy of Aryavarta. Let me explain. While writing Raavan’s story, I realized a few things about the man. Right from when he was a child, Raavan raged against the circumstances he found himself in. He was very much a man in charge of his destiny. Initially, I felt Raavan had been cast aside by his motherland and was thus, in a sense, an orphan. But as the story unfolded in my mind, I felt the decisions that took him away from his motherland were deliberate. He chose to be the enemy rather than being cast into the role of the orphan~ Amish Tripathi
Firstly, I implore the readers, to take the Ramchandra series of Amish Tripathi objectively and avoid comparison with the Ramayana. Secondly, this is not a typical ‘review’ of the book, where I will do a post-mortem. This is a humble attempt to learn from the creative work of the author since, in my humble opinion, while it is easy to criticize someone’s work, coming up with something which sells in millions isn’t!
The book starts with Raavan’s adolescent years. Born with a deformity (termed as Naga, the cursed people with deformities.), he is a prodigy. However, his despised by his father, the great sage Vishrava, partly for being a Naga and partly for his rebellious nature. To add to Vishrava’s dismay, Raavan’s mother Kaikesi delivers another Naga viz. Kumbhakarana. Enraged by this, the residents of Vishrava’s ashram plot to kill Kaikesi and the two children. However, with timely help from his maternal uncle Mareech, Raavan escapes with his mother and younger brother towards eastern India. Later, he leaves the Aryavarta (Indian Subcontinent) and moves to Sri Lanka to work for Kuber, the wealthiest trader in the Aryavarta.
The escape is followed by Raavan’s tremendous growth as a trader and a warrior. By using every tactic in the book, he grows to become of the wealthiest man in the Indian subcontinent. Personally, he becomes a painter, poet, singer, musician, scholar, warrior, etc. making him the most eligible man in the Aryavarta (Indian Subcontinent). However, something is amiss.
While Raavan is carving a career for himself, a corner of his mind is occupied by his childhood love Vedavati, the Kanyakumari or the virgin goddess, whom he met in his father’s ashram, when he was 7 years old. However, after his exile from the Aryavarta to Sri Lanka, he loses track of her. Owing to his love for Raavan, the younger brother Kumbhakarana traces Vedavati, who lives in a village called Todee in eastern India. She is married to Prithvi, pregnant with his child.
Raavan goes to Todee along with Kumbhakarana and lives there for many weeks. Vedavati’s influence brings out the best in Raavan. Inspired by her piety, he donates a huge amount of money to build a dam and a hospital in Todee. Further, he promises Vedavati to live by dharma thereafter and leaves for Sri Lanka.
The demon is back
On the way back to Lanka, Raavan learns about the brutal murder of Vedavati and her husband Prithvi in broad daylight. Investigation reveals that it is orchestrated by the son of Todee’s landlord to steal the money donated by Raavan. Furthermore, 200 villagers witness the cold-blooded murder without taking any action.
Enraged by this inhuman murder, Raavan executes the murderers in a torturous manner. Further, he orders his soldiers to kill the 200 villagers, including women and children! This incident turns Raavan into an enemy of Aryavarta. Next, he vowes to destroy Aryavarta and as a part of his vow, he orchestrates the battle of Karachapa, where he defeats the emperor of Aryavarta, Dasharatha. Post-victory, he imposes heavy penalties on the Indian kingdoms, thus making him the most hated name in Sapt Sindhu or the Aryavarta.
One might argue that the brutal killing of Vedavati turns Raavan into a demon. It is a natural tendency of a human being to turn into a demon when life throws lemons. However, a great man stands above human emotions. The first part of the Ramachandra series, Ram- Scion of Ikshvaku, details out a similar journey of Ram.
It begins with Ram’s birth which coincides with the battle of Karachapa between Raavan and Ram’s father, Dasharatha. Frustrated by his outcome, the emperor Dashratha blames his defeat on the newborn Ram. As a result, the entire nobility of the kingdom of Ayodhya hates Ram. However, the boy is undaunted and grows to be a great scholar and a phenomenal warrior. Furthermore, he is appointed as the home minister of Ayodhya. Using this opportunity, he reforms the internal security of the kingdom to a great extent, thus endearing himself to the common man.
The Rakhi Sister
However, a twist in fate brings a great tragedy in Ram’s life. A gang of men headed by Dhenuka, a minor, brutally rapes and kills Ram’s rakhi sister Roshini. Although Ram’s law reforms enable him to round up and execute the criminals quickly, the main perpetrator, Dhenuka, escapes a death sentence, owing to a legal technicality of being a minor. Although Ram is highly enraged at this, he does not try to modify/break the law for his personal vengeance.
Furthermore, there is great pressure from others including his own brothers, Lakshmana and Bharat, to avenge Roshini’s murder. But Ram does not budge. Instead, he burns his own hand for the guilt of not being able to avenge his sister. In his own words to Lakshmana, he says, ‘The Law cannot be broken. It is supreme, more important than you or me or Roshini.’
One might wonder what is the source of Ram’s inner strength as opposed to the weakness of Raavan. We see such contrasting characters in Mahabharata as well, where men of equally tragedic lives like Arjuna and Karna, make completely different choices.
Raavan and Karna’s tendency to inflict pain upon others stems from a sense of victimhood. It is true that society did not treat them fairly. However, It is important to realize that you cannot control other’s actions. Moreover, your actions are completely under your control. Your greatness should not be dependent on someone else. Amish brings this beautifully in the two novels of the same series, where two characters made completely different choices in a similar situation. After all, there is a fine line between revenge and justice.
- A beautiful song from Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana dedicated to Raavan: Abhinandan.
- Read an episode of Ram’s greatness from Ramayana: Rama’s real strength