Thiruvananthapuram: In hindsight, it looks like a strategic masterstroke of the CPM to disassociate the party from Samskritha Sanghom, a group of Left-leaning intellectuals and CPM cardholders interested in Sanskrit.
By doing so, the gains were two. Primarily, the party could ensure that the political message it was keen to send across - that the Ramayana has been appropriated by the Hindutva forces for selfish violent ends - was not drowned in the questions about the CPM's alleged political deviance. Perhaps more critically, the disassociation has given the party the licence to freely associate with the Sanghom's 'Ramayana' project.
It was tourism minister Kadakampally Surendran who on Wednesday inaugurated the first in the series of seminars titled 'Ramayana Thoughts' organised by the Sanghom across the state. Other CPM ministers and leaders will inaugurate the Ramayana seminars that will follow. The party becomes the proverbial lotus leaf, it can fully immerse in religion and still be seen as untouched by it.
But the minister robbed the strategy of its finesse, its subtlety. He tried unnecessarily hard to distance the party from the Sanghom. “People said the CPM was about to begin Ramayana readings, social media trolls had a field day and some even went to the extent of saying that the CPM would construct the Ram temple at Ayodhya,” he said. “The controversies refused to die down even after the CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan made it clear that Samskritha Sanghom was an independent organisation with no links to the CPM.”
As though he himself was unconvinced, Kadakampally frequently fell into explanatory mode. “No one should harbour the misconception that Samskritha Sanghom is part of the CPM,” he said. After a while he said: “The Sanghom is not like any of the innumerable feeder organisations of the CPM.” And then, as if to tie all imaginary loose ends, he said: “The party has found nothing wrong in CPM workers taking part in the programmes of the Sanghom.”
Nonetheless, the Sanghom went about its job efficiently. Scholar and orator Sunil P Ilayidom was the main speaker. Ilayidom focussed on two aspects of the Ramayana: the multiplicity of Ramayana readings and the gradual waning of its 'mercy' tradition as embodied in Valmiki Ramayana. “Mahatma Gandhi's was the last great attempt to recover the Valmiki tradition,” Ilayidom said. “Gandhi said he would work as much for Pakistan as for Hindustan. It was for nothing the man got shot,” he added.
Multiplicity is the very essence of the Ramayana tradition, he said. This was acknowledged even in the Ramayana texts. Take for instance Ezhuthachan's 'Kilippattu'. “There is a moment in the poem when Sita speaks about the existence of various other Ramayana versions when Rama discourages her from going to the jungle with him,” Ilayidom said.
He mentioned an ancient folk story to demonstrate that the existence of a million Ramayana versions was an idea that goes a long way back. After the war, Hanuman goes to a mountain peak to write about Rama's exploits. But right after he finishes the work he tears up all that he had so painstakingly written. Hanuman did not want people to read how Rama suffered in his later years.
“What we understand as Ramayana is just one of the pieces Hanuman had torn to bits,” Ilayidom said.
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