Setting the record straight on Diwali


I’m writing to point out the holes in Jonathan Pitt’s excellent article on Diwali (“For Baltimore-area Hindus, Diwali is about spreading joy,” October 24). Ravana is described as a 10-headed god in this article. Ravana has 10 heads, but he is not a god. He is half holy and half asura, or demon – half good and half evil. He is the king of Sri Lanka in the Hindu epic Ramayana, authored by the ancient and famous poet Valmiki. He abducts Lord Rama’s wife, Sita, who in the Ramayana is the daughter of mother earth, Bhooma. Rama is one of the human incarnations of god Vishnu who is the protector of all humans in Hinduism.

The article says that Rama was abducted by Ravana and held captive for 14 years. This is not true, according to the Ramayana. It was Sita, wife of Rama who was abducted by Ravana and kept prisoner for 14 years and Rama with the help of Hanuman, a monkey and his legion of monkeys, wins his wife’s freedom by killing Ravana. Rama’s triumphal return with Sita, to his kingdom of Ayodhya, is celebrated by North Indians during Diwali, and Ravana’s death at the hands of Rama, depicts the death of evil at the hands of good or vice at the hands of virtue.

The Ramayana is a complex epic where good people have a dark side and bad people have a good side, where a god makes mistakes and one of the first magical realists, Valmiki, anthropomorphizes birds, animals and trees, transforming them into speaking characters and witnesses. to the drama that unfolds between an banished god-king, Rama, and his wife Sita.

Hinduism teaches life and moral lessons through mythology and stories, like all religions. Only in Hinduism, as in ancient Greek religion, mythology draws no boundaries between gods and humans or between humans and animals or humans and trees and plants. All forms of creation interact, mingle, change shape, mate and give rise to new forms. In our time, South American authors like Gabriel Garcia Marquez have used magical realism in masterful ways to recount the sorrows and joys of the human condition in a fertile land as it tries to speak in many languages ​​to its human children. .

Those who want to understand Hinduism should read the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, two ancient epics that every Hindu child learns via oral tradition by telling and retelling through the centuries. For Westerners who wish to read the English translations of the epics, the versions by the Indian author Rajaji are an excellent choice.

I thank The Sun for honoring the diversity of Maryland’s religious traditions and practices with Jonathan Pitt’s article on Diwali.

—Usha Nellore, Bel Air

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