Living Thoughts of The Ramayana

The Ramayana: A Telling Of the Ancient Indian Epic
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Their priests distinguished themselves by founding schools of learning which were known all over India. Their sacrifices and gifts to the learned drew together the most renowned men of the age from distant regions. Their celebrated Universities Parishads were frequented by students from surrounding countries. Their compilations of the old Vedic Hymns were used in various parts of India. Their elaborate Brahmanas or Commentaries on the Vedas were handed down from generation to generation by priestly families. Their researches into the mysteries of the Soul, and into the nature of the One Universal Soul which pervades the creation, are still preserved in the ancient Upanishads, and are among the most valuable heritages which have been left to us by the ancients.

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And their researches and discoveries in science and philosophy gave them the foremost place among the gifted races of ancient India. It would appear that the flourishing period of the Kosalas and the Videhas had already passed away, and the traditions of their prowess and learning had become a revered memory in India, when the poet composed the great Epic which perpetuates their fame.

Distance of time lent a higher lustre to the achievements of these gifted races, and the age in which they flourished appeared to their descendants as the Golden Age of India. To the imagination of the poet, the age of the Kosalas and Videhas was associated with all that is great and glorious, all that is righteous and true.

His description of Ayodhya, the capital town of the Kosalas, is a description of an ideal seat of righteousness. Dasa-ratha the king of the Kosalas is an ideal king, labouring for the good of a loyal people.


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Rama, the eldest son of Dasa-ratha and the hero of the Epic, is an ideal prince, brave and accomplished, devoted to his duty, unfaltering in his truth. The king of the Videhas, Janak or rather Janaka, but I have omitted the final a of some names in this translation , is a monarch and a saint. Sita, the daughter of Janak and the heroine of the Epic, is the ideal of a faithful woman and a devoted wife.

Bestselling in Ramayana

A pious reverence for the past pervades the great Epic; a lofty admiration of what is true and ennobling in the human character sanctifies the work; and delineations of the domestic life and the domestic virtues of the ancient Hindus, rich in tenderness and pathos, endear the picture to the hearts of the people of India to the present day.

It is probable that the first connected narrative of this Epic was composed within a few centuries after the glorious age of the Kosalas and the Videhas. But the work became so popular that it grew with age. It grew,—not like the Maha-bharata by the incorporation of new episodes, tales and traditions,—but by fresh descriptions of the same scenes and incidents. Generations of poem were never tired of adding to the description of scenes which were dear to the Hindu, and patient Hindu listeners were never tired of listening to such repetitions.

The virtues of Rama and the faithfulness of Sita were described again and again in added lines and cantos. The grief of the old monarch at the banishment of the prince, and the sorrows of the mother at parting from her son, were depicted by succeeding versifiers in fresh verses. The long account of the grief of Rama at the loss of his wife, and stories of unending battles waged for her recovery, occupied generations of busy interpolators. The Sloka verse in which much of the Ramayana is composed is the easiest of Sanscrit metres, and afforded a fatal facility to poets; and often we have the same scene, fully and amply described in one canto, repeated again in the two or three succeeding cantos.

The unity of the composition is lost by these additions, and the effect of the narrative is considerably weakened by such endless repetition. It would appear that the original work ended with the sixth Book, which describes the return of the hero to his country and to his loving subjects. The seventh Book is called Uttara or Supplemental, and in it we are told something of the dimensions of the poem, apparently after the fatal process of additions and interpolations had gone on for centuries.

We are informed that the poem consists of six Books and a Supplemental Book; and that it comprises cantos and 24, couplets. And we are also told in this Supplemental Book that the descendants of Rama and his brothers founded some of the great towns and states which, we know from other sources, flourished in the fifth and fourth centuries before Christ. It is probable therefore that the Epic, commenced after , had assumed something like its present shape a few centuries before the Christian Era. The foregoing account of the genesis and growth of the Ramayana will indicate in what respects it resembles the Maha-bharata, and in what respects the two Indian Epics differ from each other.

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The Maha-bharata grew out of the legends and traditions of a great historical war between the Kurus and the Panchalas; the Ramayana grew out of the recollections of the golden age of the Kosalas and the Videhas. The characters of the Maha-bharata are characters of flesh and blood, with the virtues and crimes of great actors in the historic world; the characters of the Ramayana are more often the ideals of manly devotion to truth, and of womanly faithfulness and love in domestic life.

The poet of the Maha-bharata relies on the real or supposed incidents of a war handed down from generation to generation in songs and ballads, and weaves them into an immortal work of art; the poet of the Ramayana conjures up the memories of a golden age, constructs lofty ideals of piety and faith, and describes with infinite pathos domestic scenes and domestic affections which endear the work to modern Hindus.

As a heroic poem the Maha-bharata stands on a higher level; as a poem delineating the softer emotions of our everyday life the Ramayana sends its roots deeper into the hearts and minds of the million in India. These remarks will be probably made clearer by a comparison of what may be considered parallel passages in the two great Epics.

Ramayana-a way of life

In heroic description, the bridal of Sita is poor and commonplace, compared with the bridal of Draupadi with all the bustle and tumult of a real contest among warlike suitors. The rivalry between Rama and Ravan, between Lakshman and Indrajit, is feeble in comparison with the life-long jealousy and hatred which animated Arjun and Karna, Bhima and Duryodhan.

In the whole of the Ramayana there is no character with the fiery determination and the deep-seated hatred for the foe which inspire Karna or Arjun, Bhima or Duryodhan. And in the unending battles waged by Rama and his allies there is no incident so stirring, so animated, so thrilling, as the fall of Abhimanyu, the vengeance of Arjun, the final contest between Arjun and Karna, or the final contest between Bhima and Duryodhan.

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The whole tenor of the Ramayana is subdued and calm, pacific and pious; the whole tenor of the Maha-bharata is warlike and spirited. And yet, without rivalling the heroic grandeur of the Maha-bharata, the Ramayana is immeasurably superior in its delineation of those softer and perhaps deeper emotions which enter into our everyday life, and hold the world together.

And these descriptions, essentially of Hindu life, are yet so true to nature that they apply to all races and nations. There is something indescribably touching and tender in the description of the love of Rama for his subjects and the loyalty of his people towards Rama,—that loyalty which has ever been a part of the Hindu character in every age—.

The step-mother of Rama, won by the virtues and the kindliness of the prince, regards his proposed coronation with pride and pleasure, but her old nurse creeps into her confidence like a creeping serpent, and envenoms her heart with the poison of her own wickedness.

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She arouses the slumbering jealousy of a woman and awakens the alarms of a mother, till—. The determination of the young queen tells with terrible effect on the weakness and vacillation of the feeble old monarch, and Rama is banished at last. And the scene closes with a pathetic story in which the monarch recounts his misdeed of past years, accepts his present suffering as the fruit of that misdeed, and dies in agony for his banished son.

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This lesson focuses on how the Ramayana teaches Indians to perform their dharma. However, this does not at all hinder my honest opinions regarding the book. Harry Potter. The chapters are properly categorized in small parts. In Ayodhya-Kanda preparations are made for installing Rama as heir-apparent. Bards still tour villages telling the story with the help of painted scrolls, while singers sing devotional hymns recalling the valour of Lord Rama or the faithfulness of his Sita. Richard Freeman.

The inner workings of the human heart and of human motives, the dark intrigue of a scheming dependant, the awakening jealousy and alarm of a wife and a mother, the determination of a woman and an imperious queen, and the feebleness and despair and death of a fond old father and husband, have never been more vividly described. Shakespeare himself has not depicted the workings of stormy passions in the human heart more graphically or more vividly, with greater truth or with more terrible power.

It is truth and power in the depicting of such scenes, and not in the delineation of warriors and warlike incidents, that the Ramayana excels. It is in the delineation of domestic incidents, domestic affections and domestic jealousies, which are appreciated by the prince and the peasant alike, that the Ramayana bases its appeal to the hearts of the million in India.

And beyond all this, the righteous devotion of Rama, and the faithfulness and womanly love of Sita, run like two threads of gold through the whole fabric of the Epic, and ennoble and sanctify the work in the eyes of Hindus. Rama and Sita are the Hindu ideals of a Perfect Man and a Perfect Woman; their truth under trials and temptations, their endurance under privations, and their devotion to duty under all vicissitudes of fortune, form the Hindu ideal of a Perfect Life.

Rama, the prince of Ayodhya, is the eldest son of King Dasharatha and his wife Kaushalya. She schemes to send Rama and his wife Sita into exile, where they remain for 14 years. Rama and Sita return to Ayodhya and are warmly welcomed back by the citizens of the kingdom, where they rule for many years and have two sons. Eventually, Sita is accused of being unfaithful, and she must undergo a trial by fire to prove her chastity.

She appeals to Mother Earth and is saved, but she vanishes into immortality. Though their actions in the text, Rama and Sita come to embody the ideals of matrimony through their devotion and love for one another. Rama inspires loyalty among his people for his nobility, while Sita's self-sacrifice is seen as the ultimate demonstration of chastity. Rama's brother Lakshmana, who chose to be exiled with his sibling, embodies familial loyalty, while Hanuman's performance on the battlefield exemplifies bravery and nobility.

As with the Mahabharata, the Ramayana's influence spread as Hinduism expanded throughout the Indian subcontinent in the centuries after it was written. The folk drama Ramlila, which recounts the story of Rama and Sita, is frequently performed during the festival, and effigies of Ravana are burned to symbolize the destruction of evil.