The stay-at-home-order in the ancient Hindu epic (letter to the editor)

By Dr Kumar Mahabir

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The Editor

The stay-at-home-order in the ancient Hindu epic

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley of Trinidad and Tobago delivered his address today (April 6) to update the nation on Government’s plans to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is not the first time that he has made repeated references to the Bible only, and not to the Quran or Ramayana.

Understandably, he is a Christian, but his national address must include references to the major religious groups in the multi-ethnic society. As former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday had said, a Prime Minister must represent all of the people.

Prophet Muhammad commanded his followers with the order: “If you hear that there is a plague in a land, do not enter it; and if it (plague) visits a land while you are therein, do not go out of it.”

In his next address, Dr Rowley could also make a reference to the Ramayana, the largest ancient epic-poem in world literature, written about 700 BCE.

The allegory of the stay-at-home-order to avoid COVID-19 is represented by the sacred circle that was drawn around Sita’s hut to protect her from monsters in the forest.

Her brother-in-law, Lakshman, had drawn a circle in the sand with the tip of his bow while chanting a mantra (Lakshman Rekha). He said: “No demon can cross this line. Sita, you stay in the house; not for any reason at all will you cross this line. Don’t come out of the house. As long as you are in the house, you will be safe …”

In anxiety, Sita broke the directive and was kidnapped by the demon Ravan and taken in a flying chariot.

When that tragedy occurred, “the leaves did not flutter. The trees of Dandaka did not move. No breath of wind dared stir about the woods. The fast-streaming Godavari river slackened her speed from fright. The glorious Sun, who every day looks down upon our world, this time dimmed his light from the sadness of what he saw” (translated from Sanskrit by William Buck, 1976: 139).

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