As Dussehra is around the corner, I thought it fitting to adapt the central mythos of the Ramayana to the contemporary era.
Ravana, the most powerful lord of the heavens and earth and villain of the story, has often been compared with the great evil of the day. As recently as the film The Rising: The Ballad of Mangal Pandey
, Ravana was used to describe the East India Company, with his ten greedy heads representing the structure of the corporation.
Of course, Ravana being the most powerful king of the wealthiest nation in the world at the time, has a direct corollary to George Bush in today's Kaliyuga. Both indulged in great acts of hubris born of their arrogance and self-assurance in the righteousness of their cause.
Here are some more specifics:How is Bush like Ravana?
Like Ravana, Bush is an ostensibly extremely pious person of high birth (although I think he really worships the other guy, not God). Like Ravana, his arrogance led him to assume divine status and grow evil and selfish. Both believe they have been favoured by divinity, and are infallible.How is Ravana not like Bush?
Ravana was a brilliant and charming leader, whose 10,000 years of exertion gained Shiva's favour. Bush never really worked a hard day in his whole life. However, if you take Ravana with his 10 heads to represent the cabal behind Bush, then it does make sense. Just think of a beast with the heads of Bush, Rove, Rice, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft/Gonzalez, Wolfowitz, Perle, etc. stuck together. Better yet, don't think about it, as it might be too horrific to behold!Who is Ram?
Well, if the current net chatter is to be believed, Al Gore may run in 2008 for president. Gore would make a formidable candidate, especially as he has returned to his progressive roots and has emerged as a major statesman. Like Ram, Gore was cheated of his kingdom in 2000. His triumph would be akin to Ram's return from his self-imposed exile to defeat Ravana and ascend the throne. This would mark an incredible come back for Gore, who was gored (no pun intended) for accepting the Florida debacle at face value without putting up more of a fight (he had also greatly disillusioned progressive voters with his own drift to the right). However, no one could have expected that the last 5 years would prove so catastrophic!
Another interpretation can place the fate of this world in the hands of ordinary people -- thus that other superpower of global public opinion. Ravana in praying for invulnerability towards a whole series of deities, demigods, demons, and spirits, forgot to mention humans and animals. This allowed Ram, a human avatar of Vishnu, and Hanuman, lord of the monkeys, to team up and defeat Ravana.
Unfortunately, in researching this topic I came across opposite representations. It seems that many wealthy American Hindus have warmed to George Bush, caring little how many Muslims have to die or how many of their principles they need to betray to gain his favour (although not many, as they have tended to hold similar elite positions in society). Of course, the same people also served the British very well in administering their empire and oppressing their less fortune Hindustani brethren. It's an ugly part of Indian history in that the conquerors have always found willing collaborators amongst Indians. In this case, a common chauvinism with fascist proclivities has infected some powerhungry individuals in the Hindu community, as it has the Christian (religious right), Jewish (right-wing Zionism), and Islamic (retrograde conservativism). Very sad really, but each tradition has also given rise to prophets, mystics, avatars, and reformers who have repeatedly condemned the cozy relationship between the religious leaders and the power elites of each society. Hopefully, they will do so again, and reclaim the banner of peace and compassion for their great faiths.