‘O Rama, I was born of a Shudra alliance and I am performing this rigorous penance in order to acquire the status of a God in this body. I am not telling a lie, O Rama, I wish to attain the Celestial Region. Know that I am a Shudra and my name is Shambuka.’ As he was yet speaking, Raghava [Rama], drawing his brilliant and stainless sword from its scabbard, cut off his head. The Shudra being slain, all the Gods and their leaders with Agni’s followers, cried out, ‘Well done! Well done!’ overwhelming Rama with praise, and a rain of celestial flowers of divine fragrance fell on all sides, scattered by Vayu. In their supreme satisfaction, the Gods said to that hero, Rama:— ‘Thou hast protected the interests of the Gods, O Highly Intelligent Prince, now ask a boon, O beloved Offspring of Raghu, Destroyer of Thy Foes. By thy grace, this Shudra will not be able to attain heaven!’
Maheshchandra Pandya (1990) writes:
Man fragmented on T.V.
Man relayed on radio
Man lost in wilderness
In the quarrel of the sun and moon
Man bites thoughtfully!
Man bites knowingly!
Man bites Eklavya!
Man bites Shambook too?
My mom now wakes up in the morning to watch ZeeTv’s new Ramayan and occasionally I watch with her as well. Aside from the regular patriarchal politicizing of the episodes within it all (selfless motherhood, selfless wifehood, selfless women, wealth in the figure of God), what bothers me the most is a particular event in the Ramayanthat I heard when I was younger: the story of Shambuka, a Shudra who was killed by Ram for performing penance via the Vedas (sacred Hindu text Dalits were not allowed to touch let a lone learn) after a Brahmin comes to Ram saying he must have comitted a sin that caused his son to die. I still don’t quite understand the story but it’s still one that has hovered over me everytime a simple ‘Ram Ram’ is said in greeting. Of course there are varying accounts of this episode, some even say it was added to assert superiority of the upper-castes.
I go back to other Shudras I remember being mentioned in this Hindu Brahmin-Aryan legacy, told and revered by my family members—Eklavya for example, who in foreshadowing the lives of Dalits century after century, cut off his thumb in penance for the Brahmin archery teacher Drona, who did not want anyone, let a lone a Shudra prince, to stand in the way of his student Arjun’s “predestined” place as the expert archer in the world as told in the Mahabharat.
Really certain things in relation to Hinduism and my own idenity with regard to it have been resurfacing in part by the entertainment narratives that have completely been encompassed by nationalized approaches to Hinduism on the North Indian male level. My mother once told me too that out of all the Hindu gods she and most of her Dalit community chose to revere the most, it was Shiva, primarily because unlike Ram, Krishna, Vishnu etc., his avatar was the least opulent—the most identifiable with for a community that cannot see themselves in the riches of other Lords.
Monday 3rd September at 4:26pm
Tagged with: some existential messing