Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation

The Essence of Shri Ram for Bengal and Bengalis

Ayodhya Mathura Maya Kashi Kanchi Avantika.

Vaishali Dwarka Dhyo Puri Takshila Gaya.”

Among the Sapta Moksha Puri mentioned in Bharat, one of the most profound one is Punyabhoomi Ayodhya. But the history of why this land is called Punyabhoomi is very ancient. A major part of Bharatiya history is based on the city of Ayodhya and the birthplace of Lord Rama. There is a description of Saryu river in Rigveda. Kings of Ayodhya and Raghu dynasty are mentioned several times in Buddhist scriptures also. Kalidasa’s Raghuvamsa mentions the kingdom of Rama and the city of Ayodhya. 

If an example of the most patient person is given at any point of time, it is without a doubt Purushottam Bhagavan Sri Ramachandra. One of the most critical success mantras of life is patience, which is something to learn from the character of Sri Ramachandra. What great patience Sri Ramachandra had can be understood by analysing  some key incidents of Ramayana. When Sri Ramachandra was about to be inaugurated as king, he was told that he should leave these things and go into exile. He was neither overjoyed at being a king nor sad at having to go into exile.

When Sri Ramachandra was going to Sri Lanka to rescue Mother Sita, he was the most powerful king of that time. He could have taken the help of various kings all over the country if he had wanted. But instead of that, he took the help of the deprived and downtrodden common people. He took the deprived Sugriva with him because he knew that he was going to fight against lawlessness. He knew that for this war, that he was about to fight, it would not be  wealth of powerful kings, but virtues of characters that would be more precious . This is the greatness of Sri Ramachandra, and for these great qualities, he is known as Purushottam Sri Ramachandra.

Not only in ancient times but also in present times, Rama is the ideal form for us. Similarly, to Yugapurusha Swami Vivekananda, Sri Rama was a symbol of ideals and justice. Swami Vivekananda told

“Rama, the ancient idol of the heroic ages, 

the embodiment of truth, of morality, 

the ideals son, the ideals husband, 

the ideal father, and, above all, 

the ideals all, the ideal king.” 

For such an eminent person like Swamiji, Ramayana was a great source of inspiration. On January 31, 1900, Swami Vivekanand delivered a talk on Ramayana. During his speech, Swami Vivekanand made some references to Ram Setu. He said, “Learning everything about Sita from Hanuman, Ram collected an army and with it marched towards the southernmost point of India. There, Rama’s monkeys built a huge bridge, called Set-Bandha, connecting India with Ceylon. In very low water, even now it is possible to cross from India to Ceylon.”

In the pre independence time, he said to the people of Bharat, “Respect the great men of the country…we have to introduce the worship of the great saints… Shri Ramachandra, Sri Krishan, Mahavira, Sri Rama Krishana among others”.

In the pre-independence era, when the entire Bharat was under British rule, and the brave children of Bharat had been turned themselves into slaves of the British rulers, this chant was heard from Swamiji’s voice to instill a sense of self-respect in them and to motivate the youth to participate in the freedom struggle. According to Swamiji, centuries of slavery had turned Indians into weaklings. But Swamiji fully realized the urgent need to rekindle the spirit of valour in them to liberate the long-subjugated Bharat. At that time, for the reawakening of the people of Bharat, he spoke of the worship of Sri Ramachandra and Mahavira, and wanted the worship of Shakti throughout Bharat. 

It is also known that Swamiji had a great inclination to listen to Ramayana songs in his childhood. Swami Vivekananda once said, “Rama and Sita are the ideals of the Indian nation.” According to him, “Where, there is Rama, there is no Kama; where there is Kama, there Rama is not. Night and day can never exist together.”

Again, we find mention of Ramachandra or Ramayana from the letters of the heroic patriot Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. The year was 1912-1913. Subhash Bose had not yet become Netaji. In one of his letters to his mother at that time, he wrote, “Mother, India has everything you could want – hot summers, cool winters, heavy rains, and lovely autumn and spring seasons. In the Deccan, the pure and sacred Godavari River flows, merging with two other rivers and constantly babbling as it flows towards the sea – what a holy river. Whenever I look or think of it, I am reminded of the chapter of the Ramayana – and then I see in my mind’s eye Rama, Lakshmana, and Sita, leaving behind all their kingdoms and wealth, happily spending time on the banks of the Godavari, free from worldly sorrow or worry, immersed in great joy. Their happiness does not taint the purity of the lotus – the three of them spend their days in great joy, worshipping nature and God, while we are constantly burdened with worldly sorrows..”

(Translated from actual Bengali letter) 

Many writings of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore mention Sri Ramachandra and  various incidents of Ramayana. If we read his writings, we will understand how much he was influenced by the character, ideals, and qualities of Lord Rama.

We all know that Sri Ramachandra was the first to perform the Akaal Bodhan of Maa Durga in the season of autumn. Before that, the worship was mainly done in the spring. Accordingly, even today, Bengalis continue to worship the mother in autumn, and it is noteworthy that Akaal Bodhan, introduced by Ramachandra, has been made into one of the greatest festivals for Bengalis today. 

Again, if we see him as a son, or as a grandfather, while explaining how a person should be, we put forward Lord Sri Ramachandra as the ideal man. Similarly, Sri Ramachandra is imagined as an ideal husband for every woman. 

If one looks around Bengal, one would witness many places that are named after the word Ram. Be it Srirampur in Hooghly or Ramrajatala in Howrah or Rampurhat in Birbhum.

The word Ram is also associated with the names of many people in this state and country. Sri Ramachandra was the family deity of Sri Ramakrishna. That is why the names of the three sons of the family are associated with the word Rama. Rani Rasmani Devi’s family’s chief deity was Raghuvir, that is, the Raghuvanshiya hero Sri Ramachandra. Again, the social reformer King Rammohan Roy, also named after Ram. Even today, the name of Rama appears at the end or beginning of everyone’s name in the house of Premananda Maharaj (Baburam Ghosh) of Antpur, one of Swamiji’s guru brothers.

If one looks at our ancient architecture, one can observe that the terracotta temples, which have not been destroyed even after the invasion by outsiders, have the story of Ramayana engraved on them. The story of Ramchandra has been adorning various temples of Bengal for centuries. Again, in many houses, especially in the villages, we can see it written on the temple or on the altar.

“Hare Krishna Hare Krishna

Krishna Krishna Hare Hare

Hare Ram Hare Ram

Ram Ram Hare Hare.”

Lord Sri Ramachandra, the ideal man for Bengalis as well as the people of India, is always present in the thoughts and minds of Bengalis. Every parent wants their child to be like Rama, and every woman wants to have an ideal husband like Rama. Along with the Bengali sages, every common man of Bengal has immense respect and love for Sri Ramachandra. Finally, it can be said that Maryada Purushottam Sri Ramachandra has a deep connection with West Bengal and Bengali culture, which cannot be denied in any way.

(The Author is Jagran Josh Awardee 2023, having authored three books. Views expressed are his own)