Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sri Rama's English Bhakta


Our Sanathana Dharma is also called “ Manava Dharma” since its application covers the entire humanity without any limitation of caste, creed or geography. Since our Vedanta is nothing but the sum and substance of all true wisdom and is the expression of etrnal truths, its use and application is universal. The impact of some of our epics like the Ramayana and the Bhagavadgeetha on world thought has been so profound that there is no major language in the world to which these epics have not been translated.
The greatest impact of our Dharma on Europe came through the founding of the Asiatic Society of Bengal at Calcutta in 1784 by Sir William Jones who pioneered Indian research and scholarship. This was an epoch-making event in the meeting of the East and West on both intellectual and spiritual levels. The Society inspired Sanskrit studies in Europe whose literature was permeated and enriched by the Society’s journal. An eminent English scholar of repute by name Sir Charles Wilkins [1750-1836] loved the Bhagavadgeetha whole-heartedly and compared it to the Gospel of St. John of the New Testament. Under the auspices of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Wilkins translated the Geetha into English for the very first time.
This was printed in London at the direction of the East India Company upon the special recommendation of Warren Hastings, the first Governor-General of British India. Hastings had a fascination for the Geetha and he pursued the East India Company to publish the work at the Company’s expenses. In the learned preface to the book, Hastings has asserted that the study and true practice of the Geetha’s teachings would lead humanity to peace and bliss. Continuing his comments, Hastings writes “ The writers of Indian philosophies will survive when the British Domain in India shall long have ceased to exist and when the sources which it yielded of wealth and power are lost to remembrance”.
Apart from the Bhagavadgeetha, another equally important epic, which has had a profound influence all over the world, is the Ramayana. It is well known that pious people all over pray to Lord Sri Rama for help when they are in distress. In fact, there is an oft-repeated prayer to Sri Rama invoking His protection and praying that He and His brother Lakshmana with the drawn bow in their hands should stand by the devotee and protect him from all sides. An incident that happened about 200 years back in the life of an Englishman bears eloquent testimony to the efficacy of this prayer.
There is a small village called Madurantakam in the Chingulpet District of Tamil Nadu. When the country was under British rule, an Englishman by name Lionel Place was posted to Chingulpet as the District Collector between 1795- 1800.
Mr. Place was a devout Christian who had made a deep study of the Ramayana and was much influenced by it. Sri Rama was his favourite god. Even in his official duties, he was honest, straightforward and “Service to Humanity is service to God” used to be his motto. As collector of Chingulpet District, he undertook a large number of welfare schemes and became popular and commanded respect. One of the tanks, which was developed and well maintained during his regime, was the Madurantakam tank.
In 1798, on account of unprecedented and continuous rains, the Madurantakam tank became full and started overflowing. There was an imminent danger of the breach of the tank bund. It was sheer coincidence that at that time, Mr. Place was camping in Madurantakam. Very near the tank, there was an old temple of Sri Rama for which he had a sense of deep devotion. Apprehending imminent danger, the villagers approached the Collector in the middle of the night and requested him to pray to Lord Sri Rama to come to their rescue, since they were aware of the Collector’s devotion. The Collector readily agreed, went straight near the tank with two assistants, closed his eyes, stood in silence and prayed. A few minutes later, he cried out to his assistants that he saw a vision of Lord SriRama and Lakshmana with bows and arrows guarding the tank bund. The two assistants could see nothing. Gradually the floods receded, the intensity of rain came down and the entire village was thus saved. The Collector was so much moved by the Lord’s Grace that the very next morning he made suitable arrangements for the construction of Thayar Sannidhi, a shrine for Devi Seetha, Sri Rama’s consort, in the same premises.
Even now there is an inscription on the temple wall the indicating the gift of the Collector. From that incident onwards, the Sri Rama temple in Madurantakam is popular as “ Eri Kaata Rama”—Rama who kept a vigil over the tank bund.


An Englishman's Devotion to Lord Srirama
Created: Tuesday, September 25, 2007 9:31 PM


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