I have known Pranav for more than a decade, since our days in CEH at IIIT-Hyderabad. For some time, I have been wanting to have a series of discussions with him on the Rāmāyaṇa.
Why Rāmāyaṇa? Like many, I have faint memory of watching Ramanand Sagar’s Rāmāyaṇa serial on Doordarshan. In addition, I have heard the story in bits and pieces in moral conversations in the family, especially with my Nani. I remember, for many years my Nani every morning did pooja of Ram and Sita before she would eat her first meal. In more recent times, I heard Rāmāyaṇa from Guruji Ravindra Sharma at his place in Adilabad. His rendering caught my attention and developed a curiosity towards the story of Ram. Further, in discussions with Navjyoti sir, we pondered over the idea of maryādā and maryādā-puruśa. Navjyoti’s long essay titled “Role of Good Manners as a Bridge between the World Religions in the Sanatana Tradition (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism)”, chapter published in “Philosophy Bridging the World Religions” (Ed. Peter Koslowski, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003) is an important read. In this essay, Navjyoti has attempted to show that construction of a maryādā-puruśa is perhaps common endeavor to all religious pursuits, and the ‘Sanatana theory of justice’ can be the basis of all dispute resolution. Further, in discussions with Navjyoti we learnt about the enterprise of Itihāsa (distinct from the enterprise of History); Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata have been considered Itihāsa by people of India.
Of late, in SIDH, I have been contemplating upon Dharampal’s seminal essay – “Bhāratiya, Citta, Mānasa aur Kāla”. In that, amongst other things, Dharampal has called for a need to develop a conceptual framework of ‘Indianness’ or public behavior supported by systemic structure. Our small team in SIDH has been contemplating on what would constitute such a framework? Further, the question we have faced is where do we begin from? In that regard, I thought a contemplative conversation on Rāmāyaṇa could be useful, since Ram is integral to India. And I could not think of a better person to converse with than my dear friend Pranav Vashisht. There would be very few people in my generation who are not only familiar with western philosophies but have also read the Śāstra-s. Pranav is one such person.
In Episode 1, Pranav talks about the story of Agnisarma, also known as Ratnakar, a dacoit who lived by looting and killing travelers. The story is about his transformation into Valmiki – the poet, who decides to tell the story of Ram. (It is important to note that both in classical India and Greece, the poet plays the historian). Towards the end of episode 1, I put forward three questions – 1. Is it possible to share/transfer one’s pāpa/puṇya with/to others, 2. What is the significance of considering Veda-s to be aupurushiya (author-less) and 3. What is the significance of using meter (of poetry) to describe good deeds to future generations?
The reading of Itihāsa is a lifelong process. Let us see how far Pranav and I can go with it. Hopefully, this would help us identify some basic tenets of Bhārtiyatā.
The talk is available at: