Rama, Maryada Purushottam, the king of Ayodhya, banished his beloved queen, in whose chastity he had complete faith, simply because his subjects disapproved of taking back a wife who had spent a year in the house of her abductor. The king bowed to the will of the people, though it broke his heart. Was his stand justified?
Could Manthara be held solely responsible for the banishment of Rama and the subsequent death of Dashratha?
Was Ahalya an adulteress or victim of sexual assault?
Did the actions of the serial molester, Ravana, stand legal scrutiny?
Was Lakshmana, prince of Ayodhya, legally justified in mutilating Surpanakha? Was his elder brother Rama an accomplice in that action?
These and other existential dilemmas and conundrums with which ancient India’s greatest epic are replete—and which it attempts to deal with in its own classic metaphysical idiom as story after story and episode after episode unfold in the telling of this fascinating tale—are now the subject of a new book that attempts to tackle these issues through modern jurisprudential wisdom, practice and convention.
While the idiom remains within the soul and spirit of the Ramayana, the interpretations are modernistic and subjected to the scrutiny of the concepts of natural justice, Roman Jurisprudence, Common Law and the Rule of Law, as these systems have evolved in progressive societies. The book is appropriately called Ramayana Revisited: An Epic Through A Legal Prism. The title was an eye-grabber that drew me into its contents. It is a serious and scholarly piece of work by senior journalist Anil Maheshwari, who retired from the Hindustan Times, and Vipul Maheshwari, a prominent Supreme Court advocate who also served as additional advocate-general of Haryana.
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