Sunday, September 09, 2012
I have always seen a strong divide between the Rama camp and Krishna camp. With some friends I am often involved in a light hearted debate on who is the best. You can always tell something about a person based on whether they vote of Krishna or Rama. And as long as you can keep the subject off non-controversial topics and limit it to Kalyana Gunas, there is no other interesting debate in the world.
My personal favorite has always been Rama. I can see why Thyagaraja melted for him so much. I find beauty in whatever Rama does. The word 'Vaatsalyam' denotes the love a cow showering affection on her calf. I find Kausalya's vatsalyam (if this song doesn't melt your heart, I don't know what will) towards Rama is very endearing. Both Valmiki and Kamban portray Rama as grace personified. They say that his walk, talk, manners and use of words are measured, filled with grace, enormous beauty and more than a great touch of royalty.Commentators often say that regality of Rama's persona was not limited to external beauty alone. I am especially taken in by his perfection. I regard that as the main reason why I like him. His unparalleled upholding of Manu Sastra and laser focused belief in upholding its principles and putting his people and parents before his personal interests. An austere son offering an excellent contrast to a philandering father.
Krishna on the other hand is a great contrast to Rama in many ways. While Ramayana offers Bharatha, Vibishana, Hanumana and Sabari Saranagathi, in Mahabharatha no one completely surrenders to Krishna (barring a minor debate on Draupadi saranagathi when Duchadhana disrobes her). Rama was born with pomp and grandeur under royal circumstances. Krishna was born under terrible circumstances in a jail. While Rama was disciplined, measured and attentively obeyed everything Kauslya and Dasaratha said , Krishna was excess personified. He overate, stole pretty much everything, never listened to Yashodha and in general had too much fun. The code of Manu was everything to Rama and he did exactly what the rule book said. Krishna did what he wanted and called that the rule. Ramayana was black and white but more controversial. Mahabharatha was gray end-to-end and was more acceptable.
But the admirable aspect about people and their love for Krishna is that many people I have met think of Krishna as their son. The undisputed love he gets when you visit Mathura is to be seen to be believed. I had an uncle and aunt did not have children at all. They were the most loving and affectionate couple I have ever seen. Never had an unkind word for each other or for anybody. They literally thought Krishna was their son. And for morning thiru-aradhanams they prepared food with so much love and with a bhaavam that it was for their son. I doubt if they would have showered so much love if they had a their own son. But when my aunt said "my guruvayurappan is my son" - you could see vatsalyam. Only Krishna can produce that kind of an effect.
When Shri. Velukkudi visited my house in 2008, I had a lot of questions for him. To break the monotony, I asked in lighter vein "what is your favorite avatharam?". And pat came the reply "Rama". When I probed further as to why he said "Perfection elicits different reaction from imperfect people of each era. It is interesting to see the ways in which people of each era disagreed and agreed with him. Plus he is a darling. Our acharyans love him for good reason." And during last month's visit, he suddenly said in between his Srimadh Bhavatham lecture, "we must be concerned about Krishna. Rama was a royal son. His brother was there with him in distress. He had great acharyas to teach him. Krishna was separated from his parents at a young age and during the Mahabharatha war, balarama went on a journey. We want to know if the child Krishna is allright. He is of conern to us. Rama may have obeyed Dasaratha. But he was 25 years old at that time. Krishna was 2 minutes old when he obeyed Vasudeva." I was aghast in a "how dare you" kind of way :-). And I chased down Velukkudi swamy and asked "but you said Rama..". He smiled and said "I still like Rama the most. The slokas about Rama are magnificent. But if I am parent, Ill be more concerned about Krishna".
I'll leave you with an interesting tidbit about Krishna and his so called reputation of being a ladies man. At the end of the Kurukshethra war, Ashwathama was made commander-in-chief by the dying Duryodhana. Ashwatthama in a fit of rage interprets that the Pandavas have won the war in deceit. So he unleashes the Brahma Astra. He releases the weapon with an intent that it should kill every single progeny of Pandavas and leave the Pandavas impotent. This way there is no succcessor to the throne from the Pandavas side. As the weapon systematically kills its targets - it arrives at the doorstep of its last target. the womb of Uttara. Uttara is the wife of the slain Abhimanyu, son of Arjuna and Subhadra (step sister of Krishna). she carries the last remaining descendant of the pandavas. As the weopon begins to grind the womb and destroy the foetus, Uttara gives birth to a smouldering baby. It is said that smoke was coming out of the baby as it was getting charred into ash. Krishna enters. He touches the new born almost-dying baby and says "if it is true that I have never touched a gopika. If it is true that I have been a true Bhramacharya my whole life an never had any physical relationship with anyone, this baby will survive". The baby since it passed the toughest test (Pariksha) of a person's life was named Parikshith (beat the test). In Arcahnai's to Vishnu deities only Sri Krishna gets the archanai "
[pranava] Nithya Brahmacharinye namaha". No other avathara gets this.