From time to time God incarnates on earth to impart His instructions and enact His pastimes. One incarnation is Lord Ramacandra, who appeared in India millions of years ago as the ideal king. His purpose was to teach us perfect government God-centered government and thus His moral, political, and religious teachings and activities were meant to instruct humanity and provide ideals to emulate. The Krsna consciousness movement is responsible for propagating these instructions and ideals in an effort to lead humanity toward God consciousness in every sphere of life, including government. There is much to be learned from Lord Rama about good government.
Last October, in a grand ceremony, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness began worshiping the Deity form of Lord Rama in Washington, D.C. The Montgomery County Sentinel reported the event as follows:
"Accompanied by the rhythmic pounding of drums and ringing of cymbals, this timeless mantra of India's ancient Vedic culture [Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare] resounds throughout the Potomac temple of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Three hundred devotees and observers somehow have squeezed themselves into the temple to watch the bathing of the deities, the first rite of the ancient festival. Light from crystal-decked chandeliers shines down on the crowd. Below, the smoke of sandalwood incense floats upward under the pandal, a multicolored tent hanging high over bowls of libations among them honey, yogurt, and clarified butter that would soon be spread on the marble incarnations of Lord Ramachandra, his consort Sita, his brother Laksmana and Lord Rama's monkey servant, Hanuman. This is the first installation of the deity form of Lord Rama in the United States."
The inspiration for worshiping Lord Rama in Washington, D.C., came from our spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who wrote in a letter to the devotees there in 1976, "As for your desire to have Sita-Rama Deities, it is a very good idea. Rama is the ideal king, and it would be very suitable that He reign over the capital of America."
The actual day of the ceremony was vijayotsava, the anniversary of the day Lord Rama killed the great demon Ravana. The Ramayana, an ancient Vedic epic, describes how Ravana provoked the wrath of Lord Rama by kidnapping His chaste wife, Sita. (Please see back to godhead, Vol. 16, No. 9.)
His Holiness Acyutananda Swami spoke about Ravana in a morning class:
"It is sometimes said that the people want the kingdom of God without God. Such an aspiration, however, is never to be fulfilled. That was Ravana's idea, also. He wanted Sita without Rama. Sita is the energy of the Lord, His personified opulence, and Ravana or demons like him want to enjoy all the opulence of the Lord without serving the Lord Himself. But they cannot enjoy such wealth for long, because fortune is fickle. You may know that when people acquire money by illegal means, that money is often taken away and they are put in jail. But even if such criminals are not caught by the police, because they have accumulated more wealth than their quota they cannot enjoy that money.
"Big millionaire and billionaire industrialists who get money by cheating and by creating factories for unnecessary commodities, and who advertise to the foolish, uneducated people that they should buy these commodities such men are full of troubles themselves. For instance, they have to face so many court cases. One of the results of bad karma is to constantly be going to court. Wealthy people often face this disturbing nuisance; they know that they may lose their money at any moment. Because Ravana did not use his wealth in the service of God, he was doomed. Similarly, any Ravana-like person today will ultimately meet with defeat before Providence."
I also got a chance to speak before the guests and devotees:
"Just as Ravana was defeated by Rama and His devotees, so today's demons will be defeated by the grace of the Lord and the Lord's devotees. We will see victory, certainly. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita,'My devotee will never suffer defeat; he will never be vanquished.' The devotees become triumphant because they become eternal: they go back to Godhead. And the demon gets defeated and returns to this world again and again. There is always this contest between the devotee and the demon, but the conclusion is always that the demon is vanquished. Although it may temporarily appear otherwise, the devotee is always victorious in the end. At present, in this age of quarrel and hypocrisy (the Kali-yuga), the devotees have no political power. Yet we are worshiping Rama and spreading Krsna consciousness. Therefore we are sure, as Krsna says, that the devotees will be victorious, not only over the demons but over death over the whole material universe."
The climax of the day was the burning of Ravana in effigy, a tradition throughout India on vijayotsava. The Sentinel described this event as follows:
"Everyone assembled at the outdoor theatre on top of a hill overlooking the temple. They sat on logs resting on a carpet of gold, yellow, orange and brown leaves. Overhead, green- and yellow-leaved trees shielded the audience from a grey sky. To the alternately delighted cheers and awed silence of the audience, Lord Ramachandra, painted an effervescent green, conquered the plotting king Ravana. While the play progressed, Krishna devotees below prepared a 30-foot effigy of Ravana to be shot by a flaming arrow and then beaten with sticks by members of the audience. Just as the effigy was doused with kerosene, the stick-bearing crowd came whooping down the hill screaming 'Kill the demon!' Then the figure, of Rama from the play took a bow and flaming arrow and struck the evil effigy. Suddenly, in the near darkness, Ravana burst into flame and devotees rushed to strike his brilliant figure. Shouts of 'Ravana is dead!' filled the air, and dancing and singing resumed as people clasped hands and moved back toward the temple."
Several film and TV crews were on hand to record the event. Said Cecilia Domeyko, a camerawoman working with a free-lance filming company called Documentary One, "I liked the burning of the effigy a lot. I thought it was great fun. The effigy was a symbol of the demoniac, and you were burning it. I think most people took it like that, because the fire is a universal symbol for purity, and so by burning the effigy you were burning evil."
All day and evening there were chanting of the holy names of God and feasting. Everyone enjoyed the festival, but devotees especially felt the auspicious possibilities of a new era.
I got another chance to speak at the conclusion of the evening: "We are going to worship the genuine king, Rama. And when we purify our hearts, the demoniac influence within us will be slain and religious principles will be introduced. The people will have to do it themselves to install the Lord and the Lord's representative in the actual seat of government. Otherwise, the people will go on being misled and victimized by Ravana-like men who, as the Bhagavad-gita describes, perform horrible works of destruction among mankind." – Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami