Tag Archives: Tulsidas

Ram Rajya scene

Ram-Rajya in America? Yes, You Heard it Right!

In October, I performed Kathak in celebrations to commemorate Dussehra, the Hindu festival that celebrates the victory of Ram over Ravan, Durga over Mahishasur, Good over Evil. As did all other aspects of our lives this year, these performances were moved online. Though physically distanced in my garage-turned-studio, I was dancing for a much larger worldwide virtual audience and sought themes of universal appeal.

Mulling over the roller-coaster of emotions I have been experiencing due to the events of 2020 – the pandemic, economic uncertainty, the Black Lives Matter movement, the massive wildfires, US presidential elections, and the related dissent and discord – this one dance item resonated with me. 

Author and Kathak Dancer, Anupama Srivastava performing Ram Rajya
Author and Kathak Dancer, Anupama Srivastava performing Ram Rajya

An excerpt from a 1984 Kathak dance-drama “Kab Aoge Ram” by legendary Kathak maestro Padmashri and Sangeet-Natak-Akademi awardee Guru Shovana Narayan, this item titled “Ram-Rajya” is an enumeration of King Ram’s kingdom, as described in the Uttar-Kaand of Ramcharitmanas by Goswami Tulsidas. Ms. Narayan’s trailblazing work hailed “Ramatva ” or the “essence of Ram” as the guiding principle of an ideal society. This critically acclaimed production revolutionized the typical Ram-centric story-telling format of that time and shifted the focus to several other characters in Ramayana who yearned for Ram.

The experience of participating in this production back then left an indelible mark on my young mind, enhanced my ability to process happenings around me, and continues to reinforce that our ancient texts provide context, relevance, and guidance in the present day and age. 

According to Tulsidas, Ram-Rajya was a utopian society, where the righteous King Ram set a very high bar of conduct. Inspired by their king, everyone in the kingdom possessed a unique set of attributes. People had no physical or mental suffering, and nobody died young. They treated each other with love and fulfilled their duties as defined in the Vedas. They followed a path of righteousness, charity, generosity, thankfulness, respect, and faith. Men and women were educated, wise, and stayed away from deceit and hatred. There was no crime and no punishment. There was domestic bliss – men vowed to be monogamous, and women were caring and committed. There were abundant trees, lush forests teeming with wildlife, fertile farmlands, and plentiful milk, honey, fruits, and grains. Birds and pets roamed freely. The sun, moon, and clouds provided a balanced climate and the air was pure and scented. Sweet water-filled rivers, lakes, and wells, and oceans were in check. Riverbanks were clean, and pious people sang praises of Sri Ram everywhere. People had an abundance of all essential material possessions. Precious metals, gems, and crystals adorned city structures and homes. Abundance and prosperity reigned supreme!

Fast forward to 2020 in the United States of America, post the presidential elections. For a country reeling, suffering, divided, frustrated with an apparently failed social-political-economic system, the post-election period is a time of introspection and recovery. But what actions should we take as individuals and as a society on this road to recovery? This is where Ram-Rajya comes in.

The concept of Ram-Rajya put forth in Ramcharitmanas has long been hailed as a gold standard for good governance as well as personal conduct leading to universal prosperity and well-being. A closer look at this description, specifically the order in which the features of Ram-Rajya have been described, reveals that the attainment of a utopian society is a three-step process. First, righteous individual conduct and the conducive way people treat each other lay the foundation of a strong and healthy society. Second, this carefully controlled human behavior leads to a harmonious environment, a balanced climate, and a perfect ecological balance between humans, flora, fauna, land, water, and air. Material prosperity, abundance, fulfillment, happiness, and peace follow eventually as the third and final step.

Whether in America or elsewhere in the world, we are truly at a crossroads in history. With unprecedented pain and suffering on so many fronts, this is a time of reflection and introspection on how we have evolved as a society and as individuals, and where we will go from here. Yes, this does seem to be the “Kalyug” all our sacred texts warned about. And it is these same texts that we can turn to for seeking the guidance to rejuvenate, recreate and rebuild individually, as a society, and as an entire human race.


Anupama Srivastava is a Kathak dancer, Founder and Artistic Director of InSyncKathak Dance School based in the San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA. After an 18-year career as a hardware engineer in Silicon Valley, she presently splits her time between dance, yoga, family, and writing.’

Featured image found here.

Finding the Light in Diwali

My childhood teacher Rammurti Mishra was, both, a yogi and a Western-trained psychiatrist. He liked to tell traditional stories like the Ramayana from a psychological perspective. He encouraged us to think of the characters and events as if they were parts of ourselves; he suggested that we might seek personal solutions by “actively imagining” the stories. The Ramayana tells the story of a perfect couple, Rama and Sita, who are separated by events and reunited through righteous and dharmic choices. Rama is regarded as a “Perfect man,” the personification of dharma; Ram Rajya has passed into popular parlance as a term for an “ideal government,” a kingdom where righteousness and light prevail.

For those unfamiliar with the Hindu epic Ramayana – Rama’s story turns on a great injustice: instead of affirming his ascendancy to the throne of Ayodhya, his stepmother Kaikeyi claims that right for her own son and banishes Rama into exile for fourteen years. Great sorrow befalls the people as a result of her selfish (though dharmically defensible) action, but Rama forgives her and accomplishes many good deeds while in exile. He restores order to the kingdom of the Vanar people, vanquishes the demon king Ravana, establishing a peaceful and just reign in Ravana’s kingdom of Lanka.  He defeats the rakshasas who have been tormenting the forest yogis, and restores life to the woman renunciate Ahalya. Most significantly, he rescues his beloved wife Sita, who had been held captive by Ravana. With his exile completed and wrongs set right, Rama can come home.

Throughout his exile, Rama repeatedly solves problems and resolves conflicts. He is light personified, you might say, and he has a clarifying, enlightening effect on his environment.

TulsidasRamayana tells us:

“When Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya, it was a moonless night. The people illuminated their homes and placed lamps along the roads to light the way as he, with his beloved Sita and his most faithful brother Lakshman, walked slowly home. When Ram returned to Ayodhya, the light of his inner being overcame all inner darkness. No one lied or stole or harmed another with unkindness or ill will. There was no violence or discord in the city. Night-roaming predators remained in their lairs. Animals forgot their natural enmities; predators and prey became friends. The earth was rich in crops. Flower gardens bloomed extravagantly. Everyone’s heart shone with gladness, and everyone spontaneously cherished friends and neighbors as if they were dear family. Petty jealousies and conflicts disappeared like shadows at noon.”

On Diwali we recall Rama’s return and the pure, joyous state of the people. We clean and decorate our homes, we light lamps and eat festive foods, we give gifts to families and friends, we lovingly remember our ancestors. We banish the shadows of criticism and fear and bask in the light of the Lord’s presence.

But the light does not prevail undiminished forever, even in Rama’s kingdom. After a few idyllic years, suspicion and sorrow began to creep back into Ayodhya. Truth, purity, compassion and charity began to erode. Self-interest and callousness found new footholds. The animals began to quarrel. Crops grew less abundant. In the marketplace, innuendos arose, hinting at a dark side in Queen Sita’s relationship to Ravana. To pacify the people, Rama (knowing that the accusations against her were false) sent her back to the forest, breaking his own heart.

It is tempting to wait for another shining embodiment of light, like Rama, to appear and banish the shadows in our lives. We imagine such people in politicians, entertainers, and spiritual teachers. We may even be fortunate to know someone whose very presence “lights up the room” and makes everyone feel happy and harmonious.

I think that each of us has the potential to be such a person. Maybe if we work together we can come up with creative solutions to make the light stay, if not permanently, then a while longer. Let’s brainstorm the actions we can take, or refrain from taking (I’m looking at you, gossipers in the marketplace!), to nurture harmony and joy in ourselves, our families, and our communities. Every effort in that direction can be a step toward establishing Ram Rajya in our world, a world in which every day is Diwali.

Zo Newell is a writer and certified yoga therapist. Her first book, Downward Dogs and Warriors: Wisdom Tales for Modern Yogis was published in 2007 and its sequel, Flying Monkeys, Floating Stones: More Wisdom Tales, is slated for publication in spring 2020. She has written numerous articles for Yoga International exploring the interface of asana and Indian mythology. She holds a Ph.D. in religious studies from Vanderbilt University.