Few steps into the Bisrakh village in the backyard of semi-built highrises in Greater Noida, a query for a Ravana temple is likely to be answered with a curt response.
“It is Ravana baba.”
While the rest of the country is celebrating the triumph of good over evil by burning effigies of Ravana, the quaint neighbourhood of Bisrakh, disturbed only by intermittent moos of cows and bird chirpings, celebrates the life and teachings of the mythological demon king.
Ram Das, the mahant of the ancient Shiva temple, which has come to be known as the Ravana temple over the years, told PTI that the ‘Lanka naresh’ was born in the village.
Legend has it that Ravana, born to sage Vishrava, an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva, spent his early childhood in Bisrakh.
“We don’t burn Ravana effigies, he was a son of our village. He was born here and we are proud of it,” Das said.
Just along the periphery of the village, stands the Ravana temple, housing the deified Shiva linga, believed to have been established by Vishrava.
But, the demon king is not worshipped by the villagers here, yet.
Presently, the temple is home to a host of celebrations of different festivals, but erecting a Ravana statue is in the offing.
“We celebrate all festivals, we worship all gods. Ravana worshipped Shiva and the ancient Shiva linga is still here. We are planning to put statues of Ravana, Vishrava and Kuber in a new building in the complex,” Das, who has been the priest here for over 30 years, said.
On Dussehra, the villagers organise bhandaras (community lunches) in different temples in the area.
The idea of worshipping Ravana, who abducted Sita, may appear alien to people living beyond the boundaries of Bisrakh, but Mangi Ram Sharma, a local, finds it difficult to associate Ravana with evil.
“What evil did he do?”
“Did he kill an innocent? Even in the ‘Ramayana’, it is not written that he was an evil man. He kidnapped Sita, but he never touched her. He kept her in Ashok Vatika where no man was allowed to enter,” he said.
Sharma’s vehement attempts to defend Ravana were strengthened by inputs from the priest who quipped, “How can any man sit quiet if some man cuts off his sister’s nose?”
“It wasn’t merely about taking revenge. It was also a question of reputation—for both Rama and Ravana,” Das added.
Far from the maddening city life, sitting under the soothing shadow of the huge banyan tree in the temple complex, one can only ponder over the rights and wrongs of mythological narratives.
And, the priest puts the conflicts to rest with a few words of wisdom—“It is all about perspective.”