Couldn’t get it to work on my account, so Mr. Bishop was kind enough to let me use his!
24 November 2015
The Ramayana is an epic about the life of a man named Rama who was destined for greatness and had to overcome trials to deserve his glory (Lal 2). Though apart of one story portraying the adventures of Rama, the Ramayama was separated into seven books: Bala-kanda, Ayodhya-kanda, Aranya-kanda, Kishkindhya-kanda, Sundara-kanda, Yuddha-kanda, and Uttara-kanda. Each of these books tells a tale about a segment of Rama’s life from childhood to adulthood in order to allow readers to feel a connection with Rama. This connection felt by readers helped shape the morals of individuals as well as nations because they feel like Rama and his relationship with others are ideal and should be modeled after (Religion Facts 11). The life of Rama, in the book Ramayana, is a book of many tales that helped shape the Indian culture into what it is today.
The style in which Valmiki wrote the Ramayana and the way in which it was looked at made it a major book in the Indian culture regardless of its years. Though the date is not precisely known, ideologues have sought to date the original Ramayana script back at least 6,000 years (Lal 1). However, it was the way in which the Ramayana was written that made it so influential. “Ramayana belongs to a class of literature known in Sanskrit as kavya (poetry)” (Lal 1). Kavya is a classical Sanskirt poetry that used metaphors and similes as literary tools to create a specific emotional effect in readers causing them to feel linked to the story through lessons and relatable tales (Encyclopedia Britannica 1). Because of the connection people had to Valmiki’s story they began to share it with others around India until it spread to all of its regions (Lal 3). This vast spread, however, caused the original text to be translated into different languages causing different words, phrases, and interpretations to be mixed into the story (Lal 3). Though the stories became changed based on geographic location and mistranslation, the main points of the story remained, therefore uniting the Indian culture under a common book guiding them morally.
The characters of the Ramayana played a significant role in how the Hindu people viewed morality and how humans should be. For example, Rama, the main character of the story, was a man who was born with the essence of Vishnu within him (Molloy 96). Now, Vishnu was considered, “the preserver and protector of the universe” so Rama’s actions were considered similar to how Vishnu would act (Wangu 56). Therefore, Rama was portrayed as a character with a strong sense of unity with others, protection for his wife Sita, and epic strength. Sita, Rama’s wife, was considered the incarnation of the goddess Lakshmi as well, who was the wife and active energy of Vishnu (Knapp 211). With their relationship being seen as a divine match, Sita could be seen throughout the epic standing by Rama’s side, supporting him, and staying true to him regardless of the situation she was put into making that into the ideal actions of a Hindu woman (Knapp 211). Ravana on the other hand, portrays much of what a Hindu does not want to be. He is a ten-headed king of the demons who abducts Sita and is eventually defeated at the hands of Rama (Wilkins 322-323). The sheer fact that he is king of the demons and that he is the antagonist to the incarnate of the god Vishnu shows that he is someone not to be admired in the Hindu culture but someone to fight against becoming. There are also characters in the Ramayana story that are portrayed in a positive light for helping Rama. For example, Lakshmana, Rama’s brother, was by Rama’s side through every step of the adventure portraying the importance of loyalty in the Hindu culture. Also, Hanuman, a monkey ally of Rama’s, showed immense strength when trying to save Sita but was unable to get the job done (Marjonlien 9-10). This situation was a way of teaching Hindu readers that one must stick to their own fate and that Hanuman should have allowed Rama to rescue Sita in the first place. Though only seen as characters of an epic to most, the characters in Ramayana play a major role in teaching lessons about morality in the Hindu culture.
The first book of the Ramayana, the Bala Kanda, was written to narrate the birth and young life of Rama while displaying his destiny for glory implicitly (Marjonlien 1-2). Though much happened in his adult life, the details of his birth are just as important. Rama was born as a result of a fire sacrifice from his father Dasharatha and along with the unnaturalness of his birth, an essence of Vishnu was placed inside of him and his brothers as well (Marjonlien 2). From there, at the age of 16 a sage came into Rama’s father’s court and requested that Rama and his brother Lakshmana venture to destroy demons who were disturbing sacrificial rites (Marjonlien 2). With supernatural weapons and the essence of Vishnu protecting him, Rama and his brother defeated the demons with ease showing that Rama was destined for greatness and would achieve great things (Marjonlien 2). A short period after defeating the demons, Rama enters a contest that required him to wield an extremely heavy bow given to a king by the god Shiva with the reward of earning a most beautiful woman, Sita’s, hand in marriage (Marjonlien 3). So, being the epic man that he was, Rama strings and breaks the bow therefore earning the right to wed Sita (Marjonlien 3). As one can tell, the book respected Rama as a demigod-like character that could achieve even the most impossible feats.
The second book titled, Ayodhya Kanda, is a story emphasizing loyalty as Rama follows his father’s orders relentlessly regardless of the corruption behind them. This section of the story takes place after Rama and Sita have been married for 12 years and the king, Dasharatha, expresses his desire to crown Rama as king (Marjonlien 4). However, on the eve of his crowning, a woman named Kaykeyi demands that Rama is exiled and that her son Bharata is crowned king (Marjonlien 4). These demands stemmed from two “boons” that the king had owed her from long ago showing that the king is an honorable man who is able to keep a promise (Marjonlien 4). Rama, being respectful as well, honors his father’s request and leaves the city heading toward the forest with his wife, Sita, and brother, Lakshmana (Marjonlien 4). During Rama’s stay in the forest, the king dies and Bharata, who will soon be crowned king, refuses to stand by and prosper from his mother’s wicked schemes (Marjonlien 4). Bharata goes to the forest after Rama to ask if he can return but Rama refuses, as he wants to honor his father’s original request and not return until his exile period has ended (Marjonlien 4). In respect for Rama, who he is as a person, and the honorable decision he made, Bharata takes Rama’s sandals and places them on the throne as he rules in Rama’s place (Marjonlien 4). Rama’s willingness to follow his father’s orders truly emphasized that loyalty was a priority in the second book.
In the third book, the Aranya Kanda, Rama encounters his first dose of trouble as his strength is tested through tempting trials. At the start of the book, Rama and his brother Lakshmana resist temptation from a seductive woman as they setup their new lives in the Panchavati Forest (Marjonlien 5). After the woman is denied what she wants from the men, she immediately goes to kill Sita but is foiled as Lakshmana cuts off her nose and ears (Marjonlien 5). Hearing of this incident, the woman’s demon brother organizes an attack against Rama but, being the epic hero that he is, Rama annihilates the demon attack (Marjonlien 5). Him destroying the demon army showed his last bit of epic strength, emphasizing again that he a heroic man capable of destroying even armies. As news travels about Rama’s defeat of the demon, the demon king, Ravana, plans a detailed attack on Rama (Marjonlien 6). He plans on doing so by having a golden deer lure Rama and Lakshmana away from their home and then kidnapping Sita at the expense of Rama (Marjonlien 6). The way this plan was executed showed how mortal Rama truly was as he was convinced by his wife to chase after the deer regardless of the fact that he knew it was a distraction sent by a demon. This was placed in the story to show readers that even the greatest of heroes have weaknesses. Jatayu, a vulture, tried to rescue Sita from Ravana’s clutches and after being wounded in the process, tells Rama and his brother of the horrible news (Marjonlien 7). Rama’s willingness to do anything for Sita showed his love for her but became a weakness, as his strength could no longer help him in the situation he was in.
The fourth book, Kishkindha Kanda, revolves around Rama’s search for Sita and the allies he finds along the way. At the start of the book, Rama is found in the monkey citadel Kishkindha where he meets a future ally and brother to the king, Sugriva (Marjonlien 8). However, before their alliance may be set in stone, Sugriva requires that Rama helps him kill his older brother in order to take over his throne (Marjonlien 8). Though Sugriva does betray his family, Rama is doing what Krishna would approve of and doing what he must in order to survive. Sugriva then ignores his promise to Rama until the monkey Queen convinces him to abide by the promise that he had made (Marjonlien 8). From there, Sugriva sends search parties out to the corners of the earth in search for Sita and the southern party, led by a great monkey Hanuman, hears from a vulture that she was taken to Lanka (Marjonlien 8). Rama’s dedicated search for Sita showed his true love for her and his willingness to make allies for her sake in the fourth book.
The fifth book, Sundara Kanda, depicts the detailed and vivid accounts of Hanuman’s adventures. Hearing news of Sita being held in Lanka, Hanuman takes a leap across the ocean and explores the city, spying on Ravana in the process (Marjonlien 9). He then finds Sita in Ashoka Grove as she is threatened by Ravana to marry her, so Hanuman gives Sita Rama’s signet ring as a sign of good faith and offers to carry her back to Rama (Marjonlien 9). Sita responds and says that she wanted Rama to rescue her himself and avenge the insult of her abduction (Marjonlien 9). In frustration, Hanuman destroys the town of Lanka, gets captured and enemies set his tail set on fire, and then escapes from his bondage in order to relay the news of Sita’s safety back to Rama (Marjonlien 10). Hanuman is a valiant warrior but the Sundara Kanda truly shows how without a leader, the actions of a single man can be of less worth.
The sixth book, the Yuddha Kanda, portrays an epic battle between Rama and Ravana. Upon receiving the news that Sita was safe, Rama heads to the coast with his monkey allies and Vibhishana, Ravana’s renegade brother (Marjonlien 12). Several monkeys stretch their bodies across the ocean to create a floating bridge leading to Lanka and as they reach the shore, a lengthy battle ensues (Marjonlien 12). After defeating Ravana and ending the battle, Rama finds Sita and has her undergo a test of fire in order to detect whether or not she had remained pure during her time spent in Ravana’s citadel (Marjonlien 13). After discovering her purity, Rama, Sita and Lakshmana head back to their home in Ayodhya where Rama had a coronation ceremony and the celebration of Dwali began (Marjonlien 14). Rama and Ravana’s battle was the main aspect of the sixth book but Sita’s loyalty to Rama influenced the Hindu culture significantly as well.
The seventh book, the Uttara Kanda, is regarded as a later addition from Valmiki where Rama’s incarnation comes to a conclusion. Rama, feeling suspicious of Sita’s purity to him, banishes her and his two unborn sons to the forest where she meets Valkimi (Marjonlien 15). Valkimi composes the Ramayana and teaches the boys to sing it so that one-day they could sing it to their father (Marjonlien 16). On this day, Rama feels remorse for sending his sons away and his incarnation ends, sending him to his celestial abode (Marjonlien 16). Valkimi fabricated the ending the Rama’s life well in the seventh and final book of the Ramayana.
One of the most influential epics in the Hindu culture, the Ramayana, had many lessons that molded the morals of the Hindu culture. The way in which the story was written made it relatable and more influential in the Hindu culture as it was easily spread across all of India. Characters in the epic represented different aspects of life such as different gods, demons, or traits all emphasizing morals important to the Hindu religion. All of the books within the Ramayana tell different parts of the same tale, each emphasizing the traits of loyalty, respect and staying true to one’s path in life. Overall, the Ramayana had a significant impact on the Hindu culture through lessons seen through the adventures of Rama.
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